WASHINGTON, D.C. — Billed as a down payment for building a 21st century transportation system, the recently passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or Fast Act, contains a provision that clears a key hurdle in the industry’s drive toward a fully digital transaction. Inside the 1,300-page bill President Obama signed into law on Dec. 4 is language that allows states to begin digitizing odometer disclosures, notices and related materials. The language’s inclusion also means states will no longer have to apply to begin accepting electronic signatures on odometer disclosures — a cumbersome process that took years to complete and often didn’t result in approvals.
State and federal laws long ago cleared the way for the use of electronic records and electronic signatures in most areas of commerce. But auto dealers, for the most part, still conduct sales using paper documents. That could soon change with the passage of the next federal highway bill, which contains language that paves the way for electronic odometer disclosures. It’s been a long journey, but this critical change could ultimately pave the way for completely paperless auto sales. When Congress passed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in 2000, it opened the eCommerce floodgates.
We’re on the brink of a connected-vehicle revolution. With the proper investments today, we could be right around the corner from a tomorrow in which connected vehicles (CVs) and a network of smart roads and highways bring us a safer, smarter, greener and more economically-productive surface transportation system. CVs are wirelessly connected to the Internet and to other smart devices — such as your phone or tablet — inside and near the vehicle. Together the vehicle works with those devices and networks to connect the driver and passengers to services and devices outside the car such as other cars, homes, offices or infrastructure. For CVs to reach their potential we need to start upgrading our traditional public roads and highways to intelligent transportation systems (ITS).