Hilary Cain, 43
Vice president of technology, innovation and mobility policy, Alliance for Automotive Innovation
Big break: Filling a newly created role at Toyota at a critical time, which positioned her at the intersection of future mobility and technology policy
When Hilary Cain was hired at Toyota Motor North America in 2012 as director of technology and innovation policy, the role was a blank piece of paper.
Cain, considered to be the first person at an automaker exclusively responsible for technology policy issues, spent nearly eight years at Toyota carving out the details of that position and setting a precedent for other automakers.
“There’s a lot more of us than there were,” Cain said of the role, where she led the Japanese automaker’s policy and lobbying efforts for connected and autonomous vehicle regulation, mobility as a service, data privacy, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and other issues transforming — and disrupting — the automotive industry.
“As companies are starting to figure out what they want to do — what their business models are going to look like or their product offerings are going to be — it’s not enough to know that it will work over the next year or two,” she said. “They’ve got to be able to look into the future and know that if we start up this mountain, we can actually reach the summit.”
Cain, who worked for the U.S. House of Representatives in a variety of roles before joining Toyota, has since been at the forefront of emerging technology policy and has played a central role in fostering collaboration across sectors on these challenging issues.
In April, Cain broadened those efforts as she settled into a new role with the Alliance for Automotive Innovation as the lobbying group’s vice president of technology, innovation and mobility policy in Washington.
“There is so much work to be done to make sure that the needs of the industry are understood, that we’re feeding input and feedback into the policy process,” Cain said, “so that what emerges is a framework that works for the industry, allows for continued innovation and new business models.”
As the alliance’s member companies — from automakers and Tier 1 suppliers to new entrants such as tech startups — sort through the layers of complexity, Cain’s goal is to provide greater clarity around the rules of the road and to get the industry players in collaboration with the government so there is consistency on policy development.
“The more that we can all be swimming in the same direction, the better for hopefully getting policies that will work for the broader industry going forward,” she said.
— Audrey LaForest