NHTSA Hearing in Silicon Valley

Yesterday the National Highway Transportation Safety Board held a hearing on autonomous vehicles on the campus of Stanford University.

This appears to be mostly an information-gathering hearing, and I haven’t seen a lot of headline-grabbing news originating from the event.

What encourages me, though, is that the hearing was held in Silicon Valley.

I grew up near Washington, DC, and my wife has worked various stints for the federal government, so I have some familiarity with its strengths and weaknesses.

One of the strengths of the federal government is the quality of the people who aspire to work there. That is particularly true at senior levels, where appointees and staffers have substantial power, but it’s really true up and down the federal bureaucracy.

One of the weaknesses, however, is how Washington-centric the government can be. All three branches of government are located in DC. The senior bureaucracy, and much of the lower-level bureaucracy, is located in the DC-area as well.

Particularly outside of the most senior positions, the federal government is staffed largely by people who come from the DC area or who have lived in the DC area for years. It’s inevitable — those are the people who happen to be around when a vacancy opens.

And those are good people, but sometimes the rest of the country can contribute a little bit of diversity in viewpoint and experience.

So it’s nice to see the NHTSA escaping the DC bubble and visiting the rest of the country.

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