DVN General Editor Daniel Stern gave the keynote address at last month's US Workshop, with the thesis "To get new lighting technology from the lab to the road, everyone must row the boat in the same direction". It is presented here in pertinent part.
Despite 40 years of talking, the world's car lighting standards are still not fully harmonised. The technical points can be intricate, of course, but not forty years' worth of intricacy; this suggests there are factors beyond the technical at work. Technical regulations can be used for purposes other than their nominal function of guaranteeing minimum adequate vehicle safety performance. The automakers and their advocacy groups and the various other regulated parties give the appearance of perhaps not rowing the boat always in the same direction: engineers all seem to agree that one worldwide standard would be ideal, because it would facilitate maximum safety performance and save costs through economies of scale.
But executives seem to want one standard per market. Why? Perhaps it is because different standards in different markets permit automakers to control which vehicles do and don't enter any particular market, and at what price. It is fair to say the US regulations are most prominently different to the UN (or similar-to-UN) regulations observed throughout most of the rest of the world. American regulators, therefore, face conflicting pushes and pulls. Tariffs and local-content laws that once served to shore up local operations and exclude cars made elsewhere are no longer politically acceptable under today's "free trade" philosophy. That, however, does not stop stakeholders from wanting the protection those tariffs and content laws once offered. So, pressure formerly applied to politicians for the enactment and maintenance of such visible trade barriers may now be applied to regulators for invisible trade barriers in the form of technical regulations sufficiently different to those in other markets that cars cannot freely flow in either direction without extensive and costly modification, if at all.
Moreover, regulatory agencies must carefully decide how and where to spend their limited time, money, and effort. Bad experience within a particular realm, such as lighting, can make regulators reluctant to touch it again. When the lighting sector of the industry they regulate does not speak with a unified voice, it creates noise, conflict, and the appearance of a messy, difficult regulatory task. This, in turn, causes lighting to be moved to the lowest possible priority as a means of (justifiably) avoiding a regulatory morass.