VW Jetta

The 28-member European Union and the United States are currently negotiating a free trade agreement that, if successfully concluded, would rewrite the rules of international exchange for 46 percent of global trade. The magnitude of the potential deal means just about everyone is trying to influence parts of the deal, from the Sierra Club and almost 200 other organizations fighting the investor-state dispute clause to automakers aiming to get negotiators to harmonize US and EU safety regulations.

Carmakers aren't asking for total equivalency in US and EU standards. But, according to a report in Automotive News, automakers, who claim to be ten percent of trans-Atlantic trade, say that a common standard for just the fundamental safety issues would save them hundreds of millions of dollars in re-engineering costs for global platforms. Trying to succeed where they failed in the late nineties with the same push, this time the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the American Automotive Policy Council and the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association have asked scholars from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the SAFER research group of Sweden's Chalmers University to work on a framework of basic safety standards.

The challenges are that "a mile driven [in the US] is different than a mile driven in Europe," and they'll need to figure out how to account for those differences when determining what 'fundamental' safety is. As well, even if the academic paperwork looks good, policymakers are wary of accepting rules for their own domestic markets that are made elsewhere and don't want to be seen as giving in to weaker standards. On the other hand, the chance of smaller victories means we could get access to Euro-approved tech like Audi's LED Matrix Beam headlights and sequential LED turn signals.

The university researchers are scheduled to have their findings ready by May, with a final analysis due at the end of 2014.