Boone was previously vice president of government affairs at the Consumer Technology Association where she led legislative and policy initiatives on AVs, transportation innovation and emerging technology. She joined the association, which owns and produces the CES technology expo, in 2014. Before that, she was deputy chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican.
"Hilary has definitely left big shoes to fill," Boone says of her predecessor, who left Toyota for an executive position at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation. "She really was a mentor to me when I was at CTA, so I learned a lot from her."
Staff Reporter Audrey LaForest spoke with Boone, 35, about how her broad experience in technology policy will be useful in developing a comprehensive strategy at Toyota. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: This is your first time working directly in the auto industry. What drew you to the position?
A: I spent the last six years at CTA working on tech policy and specializing in vehicle technology policy, including self-driving vehicles. I worked really closely with Toyota as a member company, and I worked really closely with Hilary. She and Toyota were always one of the first companies, first people, that I went to for feedback and to help me answer questions on how the industry was adapting to new innovations coming in and how they're planning on making some of these big, bold ideas happen. If you've ever been to CES, you know the automotive hall has gotten so big and has taken over a huge part of the show. Toyota always had such an amazing booth and great innovations to share.
Can you elaborate on some of the legislative and policy initiatives you pursued while working for CTA?
The biggest initiatives we worked on legislatively were the SELF DRIVE Act and the AV START Act and the yet-to-be-named proposals from this past Congress that are still in discussion draft form. It's really about trying to create a comprehensive national plan for how we're going to adapt regulations for AVs because the automotive industry is so heavily regulated, and for good reason, but the pace of innovation has totally changed. You hear this all the time — it's nothing new — that trying to keep government and regulation up with innovation is always a challenge. There's this need to think creatively about ways to adapt that approach that allows for more innovations to come up and be incorporated into vehicles, but still maintaining that high, expected level of safety.
How will those experiences help guide your work at Toyota?
It's given me that 30,000-foot perspective of where the industry generally is going and how different companies are approaching things. It's been really interesting to see how much the industry has worked together on the policy side and seeing competitors work together on pushing one federal plan for how to regulate in the space. That's been a bit unique, especially as you've seen a lot of new entrants — like Uber, Lyft, Aurora and all these different companies that have emerged over the last couple years — and seeing that Silicon Valley perspective and the traditional manufacturer perspective come together. They've each really learned something from each other in how to be innovative and creative, but also making sure that you're up to the standards and safety that you need to be.
How has the pandemic altered the industry's approach to AVs and future mobility?
It opened up some new opportunities to expose consumers to autonomous delivery and what autonomy can offer. When I was at CTA, we did a survey on consumers' awareness of and favorability of autonomous delivery systems including robotic delivery, drone delivery and AV delivery. There was an increase of about 25 percent for all three of those in favorability and this was back in, I think, April or May. So early on in the pandemic, people recognized the opportunities that it could create to service a need. I think that will continue, and the longer this goes on is another opportunity to show consumers what this technology can do.
The presidential election is less than two months away. How might policy related to AVs and emerging tech be affected by the results?
Regardless of how the election turns out, the challenge of adapting vehicle and vehicle policy and regulations for new innovations is going to be the same. We're working through this process and starting to grasp what it means to adapt a very complicated and rigorous regulatory system, and I think that will continue regardless of which party ends up in the White House.