I often berate the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) for not doing enough to promote and protect motorcycle riding in the United States, but we also have to give credit where credit is due, and the MIC is due a little credit for a change.
Working in conjunction with the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, the MIC hosted a briefing titled “Intelligent Transportation Systems and Automated Vehicle Applications Impacts on Motorcycle Safety,” which focused on vehicle-to-vehicle technologies, and how they apply to motorcycles.
The briefing featured a panel of industry and research experts on the issue: Sam Campbell, BMW Group; Gary Higgins, American Honda Motor Company, Inc.; Shane McLaughlin, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; and Eric Teoh, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Say what you will about American politics, but the US House of Representatives has passed the “SELF-DRIVE Act” (H.R. 3388) – a bipartisan bill that would open up autonomous vehicle regulation for manufacturers.
The big advantage of the SELF-DRIVE Act is that it would supersede the varying and ad hoc state rules that manufacturers must currently adhere to while developing their autonomous platforms.
The bill would also do away with some safety standards put in place for vehicles with drivers, such as where the steering wheel and foot pedals must be located.
Lastly, the SELF-DRIVE Act would require the Department of Transportation (DOT) to research and develop a way of conveying to consumers the level of automation a vehicle possesses.
A bill has been presented to the United States House of Representatives that would seek the closure of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) by 2018.
Sent to Congress just last Friday, the text to H.R. 861 has not been published yet by the Government Publishing Office (the service usually takes a day or two), so details are light at this point in time on the bill’s fine-strokes.
However the writer of the bill, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R – Florida), has been clear in his statements to media outlets and on Twitter that the EPA is a burden on companies; individual states would be better at handling environmental issues than the federal government; and that abolishing the EPA would create more jobs.
H.R. 861 is co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R – Kentucky), Rep. Steven Palazzo (R – Mississippi), and Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R – Georgia) – all three co-sponsors have voiced notable opposition to the EPA in the past, and this bill comes at a time when the EPA is already slated to get a massive budget reduction by the Trump administration.
General politics aside, HB 861 will likely be a mixed bag for motorcycle enthusiasts, as it will deregulate environmental restrictions set at the federal level, leaving states to draft or adopt their own provisions, which will likely have a fracturing effect on the regulatory market for motorcycles.
But, it will also mean the abolition of EPA regulations that many motorcyclists oppose, like the blending of ethanol in our fuel, and restrictions on noise, emissions, and vehicle modifications.
Exceptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) have finally gone into effect, which means that you can now legally hack the computer systems on your motorcycle and other motor vehicles.
The exceptions were put into place last year by the Librarian of Congress, despite pressure from vehicle manufacturers, who wanted to extend digital right management (DRM) practices to the computer systems that now permeate the two and four-wheeled spaces.
This is a win for security researchers and hobbyist mechanics, because it means that they can modify the software on their personal and research vehicles, without the fear of running afoul of the DMCA, which we should point out was written roughly 20 years ago.
If you have a modified track-only motorcycle, then we have some news to share that you will enjoy, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn proposed language that would have specifically given it the ability to regulate the emissions of production vehicles that were being used at track days or similar events.
The proposed rule caused quite a storm in automotive enthusiast circles, as it would have affected racing and recreational uses of products that have been sold under “race use only” provisions for years. Of course, the larger issue at stake here was the continued selling of race parts to street enthusiasts.
Still, since it is hard to find a motorcycle on the road these days that hasn’t seen its emissions equipment modified, it doesn’t surprise us to see the backlash coming from the motorcycling community.
We are finally seeing some movement from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) in regards to the EPA’s proposed regulations against converting street vehicles for racing purposes and the sale of aftermarket “race use only” parts.
Today, the AMA published a press release detailing much of the same information we brought you yesterday about the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 – better known as the RPM Act.
In its press release, the AMA says that it supports the efforts being made in Congress, and that the motorcycle lobbying group is also working with SEMA to keep EPA regulations for vehicles used in competition as they currently stand.
The AMA also says that its focus is to have language in the RPM Act that would specifically exempt competition motorcycles from EPA regulation, a move that would ensure that MotoAmerica and other race series in the US would continue to operate unrestricted.
In case you missed it, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is looking to close a loophole on how the Clean Air Act is applied to race-oriented vehicles, namely by cracking down on “race use only” parts and and going on to say that it is illegal to alter the emission control systems on a vehicle, even if it is not being used on-road.
The issue has caused quite a stir in the aftermarket parts business, which is understandable since the EPAs enforcement would likely mean hefty fines for any manufacturer who produces these “race only” parts.
Dealerships and other business that sold the racing components could also come under the long hammer of the EPA, with these proposed changes.
While there is some interesting discussion to be had on the matter, the EPA’s actions are certainly troublesome. The federal agency’s reversal on 46 year’s worth of precedent seems a bit disingenuous, and its unilateral “reinterpretation” of the Clean Air Act seems like nothing more than a well-lawyered land-grab.
Thankfully, we have Congress on our side.
Don’t say that the 114th US Congress hasn’t done anything for you, as the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) is happy to report that our legislature has passed a $305 billion highway bill – The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – which has a number of favorable provisions for motorcyclists.
The big wins come in the form of funding for recreational off-road trails, and the prohibition against motorcycle-only checkpoints, two growing concerns that the AMA has been involved in fighting.
You may have not realized it, but if certain OEMs had their way, you would not be legally allowed to work on your own motorcycle. That’s right, because of a perversion of the US copyright law, it would have been illegal for you to turn a wrench on your motorcycle, all in the name of digital rights management.
Of the more important provisions, the DMCA protects ISPs from copyright claims, and it defines how copyright law would work on the internet and other digital mediums.
One of the major sections of the DMCA deals with digital rights management (DRM), and attempts to circumvent digital systems that are meant to block access to copyrighted information and material. This effectively makes it a violation of the DMCA to circumvent any sort of DRM or encryption put forth by a rights holder.
The original intent of this provision was to protect record labels and movie studios, who were seeing their products shared on peer-to-peer networks ad infinitum, but crafty lawyers have been able to expand this portion of the DMCA to include just about any digital system, including your motorcycle…until now.