Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States

Over at Back\Line, Colin McCormick writes about the potential for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to begin blocking the acquisition of autonomous vehicle-related companies by foreign entities.

CFIUS advises the President on whether to block corporate acquisitions that “threaten to impair national security”.

Until recently, I had never heard of CFIUS, but it’s been at the front of the news for torpedoing Broadcom’s acquisition of Qualcomm.

McCormick makes the point that mobility is at least as plausible an industry for CFIUS to monitor as semiconductors:

“There are two ways that autonomous vehicles might fall under CFIUS’ broad “national security” jurisdiction. The first is that this jurisdiction includes homeland security, and there have been growing concerns about the potential of autonomous vehicles for terrorism — for example, a cyber-hacker who took control of an autonomous vehicle could potentially crash it into any number of targets.

The second is based on the idea that some “critical technologies” provide economic advantages that are so great they can impact national security, and the U.S. must protect its dominance in them.”

I worry about this type of government regulation, as it seems ripe for abuse. Politicians or CEOs or others that have their own reasons for blocking a transaction can shout “National Security” and kill a perfectly legitimate business transactions.

But regardless of my own personal misgivings, CFIUS is becoming more prominent and its something for lawyers and executives and entrepreneurs in the industry to keep in mind.

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