Special to DVN by GTB President Geoff Draper
Last December, DVN published my invitation for experts to participate in a confidential survey of opinions relating to the introduction of new lighting functions into regulations. The same invitation was also distributed to GTB experts. 35 responses were received from 7 automakers, 16 tier-1 and 10 tier-2 suppliers, and two testing services. Of these experts, 25 are associated with companies that contribute to both GTB and DVN activities.
This present report—also shared with GTB experts—provides a synopsis of the responses to the two main questions of the questionnaire:
• Do you agree, partly agree, or disagree with the following statement in the regulatory section of the DVN Report on The Future of Exterior Lighting published on 23 July 2019?
“The speed of lighting innovation is not synchronised with the speed of regulatory approval. Worldwide automakers and tier-1 suppliers are severely concerned about the speed of regulatory evolution and its effect their innovation-related investments and activities.”
• What actions should be undertaken by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as CLEPA (European Association of Automotive Suppliers), GTB (International Automotive Lighting and Light-Signalling Expert Group), IMMA (International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association), OICA (International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers), and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers)?
Summary of Responses
Some of the wording in this synopsis may be difficult to read, for I have attempted to produce the synopsis of all the input received without substantially changing the text received; such changes might have altered the intended meanings of the individual contributors.
1. Generally, regulators have a conservative mindset. When they consider regulatory provisions for new functions, they are required to evaluate the consequences for road safety. Regulators do not just apply the conventional concept of safety, but need to look for potential wider implications. This is something for industry to consider. In particular, functions and technologies that will appear in the future cannot be considered with the same concept as before; for example technologies related to automatic driving. Lighting should not be considered for regulation in isolation; it is necessary to consider the laws and regulations relating to the whole vehicle, it is necessary to consider other vulnerable road users. Specifically, this has to be a performance-based approach.
2. The current reality is that manufacturers based in countries that strictly apply regulations are competing with manufacturers in countries where interpretation in much more flexible. The risk is that lighting innovation in mature markets, such as Europe/US/Japan, will be restricted and they are likely to become followers.
3. Some manufacturers do not understand that regulations have to be restrictive, to avoid solutions which can be legally approved but can lead to unsafe products. This is the case in the context of the type approval system, because once an approval is granted it is almost impossible to withdraw it and remove the product from the market.
4. Sometimes manufacturers are ahead in applying technological know-how using special national approvals and they risk not being able to conform with future regulations introducing the new technology. Sometimes regulators apply safety requirements that limit certain technologies to be exploited (e.g. by being design-restrictive, rather than focusing on performance; or costly because of sunset clauses in the regulations). Also, assessment procedures dictated by regulatory bodies can be complex and hence cost intensive. It often appears that the regulatory processes, especially changes in regulations, are not synchronised with the product life cycles that we see in the automotive market.
5. The leading manufacturers may hope for quick regulatory approval, but others who are carefully considering or are lagging behind the development, may not want it.
6. It should not be assumed that the regulations can be adapted as fast and flexibly as the innovations. As part of the innovation process, it is necessary to take existing regulations into consideration to determine how an invention can be introduced into the market. Sufficient studies of the real-world benefits and risks are needed before an innovation can be legalised. Therefore industry needs to be more efficient in respect to the time it takes to complete the necessary studies and share the results with the regulatory bodies.
7. There is a reluctance to implement UN and EU exemption procedures to allow new features onto the market whilst working on the adaptation of the regulations, probably due to “Dieselgate”. It is important to avoid regulations which may open the way to a reduction in safety. There are instances where a regulation has been amended so that an OEM could introduce a function before it has been rigorously evaluated and additional corrective actions have subsequently been required.
8. Features offering benefits to user appeal and/or comfort without impairing safety cannot be implemented without changes to regulations. Many new functions are being proposed that are for marketing reasons and offer no safety. We must consider the needs of the public, the authorities, and common sense.
Actions to be Considered—How to work with Regulators
The points summarised below are based on opinions received from respondents to this survey. This is not a statement concerning procedures actually being followed by GTB, or of GTB’s future intentions.
1. NGO’s representing automakers and tier-1 and -2 suppliers should combine their resources to develop recommendations and plans for adaptation of the regulations and jointly approach the regulators.
2. The focus should be on GTB, as the unique NGO representing auto-lighting experts. It is a major advantage that GTB includes all stakeholders (vehicle manufacturers, system suppliers, light source manufacturers, testing laboratories, academia, and some regulators). GTB is consensus based, striving for the goal of developing a common understanding and improving road safety by updating regulations and standards to the latest technology status.
• consider creating a focussed lighting community in each of its main regions (Asia, Europe and North America) to meet and gather input for the GTB committees to develop a common or harmonised understanding of the issues.
• develop closer coöperation and seek more meetings with the international regulatory bodies, particularly USA and China, to discuss and agree guidelines, show safety advantages with results of studies and independent research, and identify future potential of lighting innovations, as the basis for decision making.
• consider organising regular seminars to focus on innovation and high-tech development to aid the development of implementation plans to be presented to Regulators. Regulators, automakers, and suppliers should be openly invited because changes are not conceived behind closed doors.
Comments on the Outcomes of the Survey
This exercise has provided an interesting insight into the opinions associated with innovation, regulation, and the constant complaints that the updating of regulations to incorporate new functions is too slow.
I did not share the industry scepticism and believed that the situation was more positive. The small number of responses to the survey suggest to me that generally, the world’s automakers and suppliers who are part of the DVN / GTB community are not particularly concerned. This was an opportunity for companies to explain their concerns and support my initiative to understand the real situation, but very few did so.
In my opinion the UN Regulations are innovation-friendly, but the lack of interest by the USA authorities is blocking innovation, even where there is a clear safety benefit. However, innovation will only be considered by regulators if it addresses safety issues.
China is not a signatory to the UN 1958 agreement, and operates its own GB mandatory standards system that presents problems for manufacturers wishing to market European technologies in China. Here the problem is one of synchronising the Chinese GB Standards with the progress of amendment of the technical requirements in the UN regulations. In principle the Chinese policy is to follow the UN technical requirements, but there is a time lag of at least five years between the publication of the revised GB standards.
Other countries not applying the UN 1958 agreement, such as South Korea and India, are generally following the amendments of the UN Regulations. However, as they incorporate the technical requirements into their own systems there are some administrative delays to be expected.
As I have been arguing for many years, if the world’s automakers and suppliers want a level playing field, with common innovation-friendly technical requirements irrespective of the regulatory system that applies them, our global lighting family must work with one voice to positively engage with the regulators. This implies that:
• An initiative must be proposed at the UN World Forum in Geneva (WP.29 and GRE) under the UNECE1958 and 1998 agreements with particular focus on the participation of the USA and China.
• The objective will be that all administrations signatory to the 1958 or 1998 agreements commit to establishing common technical requirements developed by GRE and incorporating them into their type approval, certification, or self-certification systems.
• As indicated by this survey, GTB are well placed to introduce this initiative to WP.29 and provide the technical input to GRE but this can only succeed if GRE has the active support of the automakers and tier-1 suppliers.