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Interoperability, financial barriers, Rapid technological advancement, and R&D Investments among topics discussed

September 12, 2023

On September 12, 2023, NIST and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) co-hosted a listening session with industry leaders to discuss the U.S. Government National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology (USG NSSCET), with a focus on Automated, Connected, and Electrified Infrastructure.  The event was held at the USPTO’s Elijah J. McCoy Midwest Regional Office in Detroit. 

The event featured opening remarks from Dr. Laurie Locascio, Director of NIST and the Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology, and Kathi Vidal, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. Alex Schroeder, Chief Technology Officer for the Joint Office on Energy and Transportation, provided a brief overview of the work of the Joint Office. Other event speakers included Cheri Caddy, Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity in the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security & Emergency Response at the U.S. Department of Energy, and Mary Saunders, Senior Vice President, Government Relations and Public Policy at the American National Standards Institute.

There were two panel discussions during in the event. Panelists included representatives from the automotive industry, automotive supply companies, non-governmental agencies that operate in the transportation sector, academia, standards development organizations and the technology/computing sector. The discussions followed two primary topics:

  • Challenges for Infrastructure and Transportation Standards
  • Technical Challenges on Electrified, Automated, and Connected Transportation

Intellectual Property

Panelists spoke to challenges related to intellectual property, standards essential patents (SEP) and licensing practices. It is difficult to get emerging technology companies involved with standards development because of concerns regarding intellectual property. From the perspective of standards implementers, concerns about licensing costs and potential exposure to patent infringement complaints increase the costs of implementing new technology. 

Standards and Transportation Systems

Panelists listed several standards-related barriers to building a seamless transportation system, including interoperability across the transportation system.  Interoperability is critical to ensuring a safe and seamless user experience. There is currently a gap in standards to support these needs. Automated vehicles require ready access to data across platforms, and standards are needed to integrate data-sharing into infrastructure systems. 

There is no standardized or common approach across state lines and within local governments for managing construction zones and communication with emergency services. This fragmentation in the transportation system stifles innovation. Panelists voiced a need to harmonize and reduce duplicate standards development efforts, especially at the international level. The need to provide the private sector with early access to new technology was reiterated, as early access to new technology drives interoperability.

Technological Advances and Standards Activities

Issues related to rapid technological advancement and duplicative standards efforts were highlighted as well. The transportation sector is facing unprecedented challenges because of rapid technological advancements. The convergence of many technological advances at once is driving much of the standards activity in the transportation community.

Technological advancements present risks to the transportation sector, and it is not always clear who owns the risk. For example, if an application is downloaded into a vehicle’s system, who owns the cybersecurity risk associated with the download?Multiple standardization efforts fragment the development process and divide the time and resources of experts involved.  It is challenging to develop standards when the technology is still emerging and evolving quickly.A recommended solution is to create a guidebook or summary of all standards activities related to Automated, Connected, and Electrified Infrastructure.

Funding for standards development activities was communicated as a key need. Measuring the return on investment to participate in standards development is difficult for companies since engagement is more qualitative than quantitative. As a result, it is hard to justify participating in standards development from a financial standpoint, especially for small organizations. Additionally, during an economic downturn, companies are faced with difficult choices, and standards professionals are usually the first to be let go.

Education and Workforce Development

Education and workforce development were discussed by panelists. It’s difficult to garner interest in standards development from the next generation of the workforce. The value proposition for standards must be clearly defined and understood by stakeholders. Use cases should be created to assist new working professionals in the standards community, and to increase awareness of the standards landscape, as well as how to engage and coordinate efforts. 

The U.S. Government can provide resources for non-traditional partners in standards development, and marketing and rebranding materials that educate the public on the importance and benefit of standards. The U.S. Government can collaborate with industry to develop training and workforce development programs on standardization for classrooms and mid-career professionals. The need for academic professionals to have better access to standards was also highlighted.

Research and Development (R&D)

Panelists voiced that adequate investments in R&D are critical.  Since at present, deductions for investments under R&D tax credit can only be account for on an amortization basis, up-front investment in standards participation can be difficult to justify. The U.S. Government should consider providing tax credits for standards participation as a way to incentivize the private sector, and Congress should allow deduction of R&D investments in the year that they are incurred. Grants can also help augment this public-private partnership. 

Testing and validation of standards is needed for public safety. Therefore, it is critical not only to fund the standardization process, but also fund the validation process. It’s important to understand end-user pain-points when using new technology.  For example, what challenges does a driver face when charging an electric car?  Funding for this type of research can expedite adoption and serve as use cases for new technologies.

Role of the U.S. Government

Panelists provided feedback on the U.S. Government’s role in standards development.  Standards development takes time - typically 3-5 years. U.S. Government participants in standards development must understand that participation is a long-term commitment. U.S Government participants in standards development may serve a critical role in kicking off the process in new critical and emerging technology areas because they may have the subject-matter expertise and are able to provide support in areas where the private sector may have risk aversion to doing so, particularly in the early stages of technology development. The U.S. Government can improve communication with the private sector by readily sharing information regarding standards activities, including those that are occurring in other nations. In addition, the U.S. Government may want to expand the use of standards attachés.  Lastly, the U.S. Government should increase interagency collaboration on standards activities.


Created April 16, 2024