1616: Andy Palanisamy

Andy Palanisamy is a transportation policy expert. He subscribed to FoT in December 2014.

1) What change do you want to see in the world of mobility by the end of 2016?

The most important change I want to see in the world of mobility by the end of 2016 is the creation of cybersecurity legislation that will enable the safer/faster adoption and mainstreaming of cutting edge technologies. The fast changing technology landscape is deftly changing the way we travel and live in our networked society, which presents a new set of challenges for the transportation industry. A lot of us transportation industry professionals will readily agree that there is a lack of understanding on the part of legislators/decision-makers about the importance of security challenges we face today. Among the many challenges related to technology, none is more pronounced than cybersecurity for mobility platforms. Cybersecurity is emerging as a top priority more than ever as we are beginning to see a steady stream of advanced driver-assist technologies, offering partial autonomy (Level 2/3 on the NHTSA’s levels of automation) introduced in the newer model vehicles. This environment is expected to grow more complex with time and the availability of Level 3 or Level 4 systems and there is currently no legislation in place to address the liabilities and other issues associated with a cyber intrusion in automobiles.

It is not all gloom and doom out there. Government regulators and Washington lawmakers are beginning to ramp up the efforts to address this issue but we are not making good progress. In 2012, regulators at USDOT begin to address the issue through reorganization of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and beefed up the research arm to increase its focus on vehicle electronics, including cybersecurity. Shortly thereafter, in October 2014 NHTSA published a report identifying cyberattacks on a vehicle through its cellular data connection as one of 11 types of potential attacks facing modern vehicles. More recently, U.S. Senate began working on a legislation that would direct NHTSA and the Federal Trade Commission to come up with the minimum rules for vehicle cybersecurity. This proposed legislation is followed by a scathing report from Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) that found the industry’s cybersecurity measures to be inconsistent from company to company, labelling them as “…insufficient to ensure security and privacy for vehicle consumers.” On the other hand, the automakers are working to establish an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC) through the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers. This ISAC, similar to those of other industries like banking, will act as a secure, industrywide clearinghouse for intelligence about cyber threats to vehicles and their networks. In addition, it will also facilitate sharing of best practices on how to protect against and respond to intrusions.

I would like to see a concerted campaign from the transportation industry to educate our decision makers in both government and the industry and help them keep pace with addressing the challenges of integrating technology into new age mobility platforms.

2) If you had to drop everything right now and build something that had the greatest impact on mobility, what would it be?

Batteries for automobiles (& fuel cells) — I would focus my energy on building a compact battery pack that has the ability to charge in seconds, lasts for months and capable of conducting power over the air. There are a lot of companies, big and small, currently engaged in the race to reach this energy nirvana. Research at academic institutions like MIT and at companies like Tesla Motors has shown promise but none of them are yet to yield a battery prototype that can match the ease of a gasoline refill. One of the biggest challenges in the widespread adoption of electric vehicles is this inconvenience of longer charging times that comes with today’s batteries (aside from the sky high costs of EV batteries).

With nearly 1.2 billion vehicles on this planet running on fossil fuels, invention of such a battery pack can be a total game changer. This is important for many reasons, particularly from an environmental point of view. The growing threat of climate change adds to the urgency of limiting/eliminating the tailpipe emissions from automobiles. Currently, the transportation sector is one of the worst polluting sectors and is responsible for nearly a third of the global greenhouse gases emissions.

Andy Palanisamy Bio
Andy Palanisamy is a seasoned transportation technology, communications, and policy professional with nearly 15 years of experience in the intelligent transportation systems industry. Andy has supported and led his team on various technical activities and communications programs/projects at the USDOT for over a past decade and is currently leading the outreach and communications activities associated with the USDOT Connected Vehicle Test Bed. Andy has an excellent knowledge of the stakeholder outreach and engagement processes and needs, along with a strong understanding of the connected vehicle technologies gained through his support for the USDOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO). In addition, Andy was also responsible for leading the outreach and communications activities carried out by the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Operations Research and Saxton Transportation Operations Laboratory. In this capacity, he and his team are involved in engaging a variety of stakeholders through online webinars and in-person meetings to solicit feedback on various innovative connected automation research projects such as Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control, Speed Harmonization, etc. He is adept at communicating complex technical issues to decision makers and critical stakeholders and plays a vital role in the success of these pioneering research projects. Over the years, Andy has built an extensive network among the industry stakeholders. Andy holds a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering and is currently pursuing a Mid-career Master in Public Administration degree at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.
Twitter: @Transportgooru; LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/transportgooru

1616 is a compendium of ideas from 16 FoT subscribers about our near-term mobility future. You can read all 16 entries here; you can sign up for FoT here.