MMS Student Explores Autonomous Vehicles and Public Policy at General Motors

Thursday, June 29, 2017
MMS Student Marissa Farbman is spending her summer interning for General Motors in Washington DC.
MMS Student Explores Autonomous Vehicles and Public Policy at General Motors


Working as a global public policy intern at General Motors has afforded me an incredible opportunity to gain unique insight into the intersection of policy and business in a rapidly growing industry. GM CEO Mary Barra has said, “We are in the midst of seeing more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years” regarding the pace of innovation in the automobile industry. Not only are vehicle capabilities changing, but the way that individuals and society are approaching transportation has been revolutionized due to technology, globalization and urban development. As an American automobile manufacturer serving a multinational market, GM must be keen in adapting to consumer demands and global changes. With the Capitol dome in sight, GM’s Public Policy office sits in the heart of DC, just a couple of blocks from congressional office buildings.  Through my position, I have learned that policy plays a pivotal role in fostering a suitable environment for GM to conduct nearly all aspects of its operations. Regulation dictates how the company creates, tests and deploys automobiles and it influences how GM structures its company.  In my short time here, I have researched and attended hearings on relevant industry issues including tax, commerce, energy, fuel economy standards, oil, steel, and autonomous vehicles (AVs).

As an emerging technology, autonomous vehicles do not fit into current infrastructure, roadway and vehicle laws, therefore AVs are a key area of focus for GM Public Policy. I have identified factors that must be considered for sound AV operations and researched potential new markets for deploying AVs. As we envision the future, autonomous vehicles must be at the forefront of our minds. Not only does the innovation alter the automobile industry, but its usage of artificial intelligence and data will change our approach to security and privacy, job markets will be disrupted, urban planning and city structures will be reconstructed, daily schedules will be transformed, and large sectors of the population, including the disabled, elderly and youth, will be granted increased mobility.

If you’re from San Francisco or Pittsburgh, you may have seen self-driving cars already on the roadways. The technology is here and the steps are in place to transform mobility. We have already begun to do so. There has been mass transformation from traditional car ownership to the usage of ride-sharing programs such as Uber and Lyft or car-sharing programs such as MAVEN. Through MAVEN, GM will eventually seek to deploy fleets of autonomous vehicles. Right now, electric cars that use similar AV technologies, such as a 360-surround camera, are found more frequently on roadways. This week, I attended Exelon’s Innovation Expo to speak about GM’s fully electric vehicle, the Chevy Bolt. The Bolt is a giant step forward in bringing affordable electric cars to the market and complying with heavier fuel economy regulations.

In addition to creating suitable policy for AV technology, it is imperative to gain public support. Thus, grassroots organizing is pivotal to GM operations. I have corresponded with organizations such as the American Council for the Blind and connected with GM employees across the nation to educate them on policy issues and inspire them to influence legislators. I have helped plan and execute external events including the Congressional Baseball Game and next month I look forward to traveling to Indiana to meet with GM retirees. I am inspired by the continuous advancement that GM brings to the automobile industry and I am excited to continue working on policy issues that will influence how we live in the decades ahead.


Marissa Farbman is Public Policy Major, Economics Minor, and a Markets and Management Certificate student. Markets and Management Studies will be featuring students' summer experiences all summer. Check in weekly or follow us on Facebook to read more about what our students are doing this summer.


Picture: Charlotte Kaye (Left) and Marissa Farbman (Right) at the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity