The Autonomous Vehicle Industry Association (AVIA) has appointed its inaugural executive director, Jeff Farrah, a veteran of Capitol Hill , the group announced Oct. 25.
Founded in 2016, AVIA was the first advocacy organization dedicated solely to AVs. Its members include Aurora, Cruise, Embark, Ford, Gatik, Kodiak, Lyft, May Mobility, Motional, Navya, Nuro, TuSimple, Uber, Volvo Cars, Waymo and Zoox, and also included Argo AI before its two main backers Ford and Volkswagen shut it down on October 26.
“We are excited to add Jeff’s leadership and expertise to the AV industry,” David Quinalty, chair of the AVIA board of directors, said in a statement. “Jeff’s appointment as executive director signals how far AVIA and the AV industry have progressed in recent years, and the creation of this position is a natural next step in representing the safety, mobility and economic opportunities supported by AVs.”
As AVIA’s executive director, Farrah will lead the association’s day-to-day operations and map out its long-term strategy and growth.
“This new role will be a valuable voice for the technology’s safety and mobility benefits for all road users as well as disabled, aging, and disadvantaged communities,” Quinalty said in a statement. “His extensive experience with trade associations and on Capitol Hill make Jeff uniquely suited to navigate public policy issues, build relationships, and drive AVIA forward into the future.”
Prior to joining AVIA, Farrah was general counsel of the National Venture Capital Association, where he advocated public policy in favor of the American entrepreneurial ecosystem and managed legal and operational aspects of the association.
“For me, the need for AVs is a personal one and is what has driven me to lead AVIA,” Farrah said in a statement. “When I imagine the future AVs can bring, I think of my 92-year-old grandmother, who has lost independence as she has grown older and is not able to drive as she did earlier in life. It is hard for many of us to watch as our loved ones lose self-sufficiency. Just imagine the benefit AVs would provide to my grandmother and millions of Americans like her who will regain the ability to move around as they desire.”
Farrah was also counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, advising then-Chairman John Thune and members of the committee on technology and telecommunications issues. He also served as general counsel to U.S. Senator Scott Brown, advising on a range of policy and legal issues. Before his U.S. Senate career, Farrah was an attorney in D.C. for international trade matters.
“Autonomous vehicles offer a once-in-a-generation leap in innovation toward a safer, more efficient, and more mobile world for those in need. I’m thrilled to be joining this industry and to partner with the many policymakers, like-minded organizations, nonprofits, and other commercial sectors that recognize the value of the AV industry,” Farrah said in a statement. “I look forward to amplifying the exciting developments that AVs are already fulfilling and to working in the trenches with stakeholders on the policies needed to achieve AVs’ full potential.”
AVIA noted that more than 43,000 Americans died on U.S. roads last year, marking the largest increase since federal data tracking began.
“With road deaths at their highest peak in decades, severe stress on our supply chains, and American technological leadership under threat, it is a critical time for policies and initiatives that support AV advancement on our roads,” Ariel Wolf, general counsel to AVIA, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to continuing the success of the association under Jeff’s leadership.”
AVIA changed its name from the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets in January. The association noted its new brand reflected its shift from a narrowly focused alliance to a trade group representing a large, diverse and expanding AV industry. The new name was also aimed to clarify the difference between vehicles that use advanced driver-assistance systems to support driving and autonomous vehicles that use automated driving features to perform the entire task of driving.