Kevin Schlosser has made it his mission to make driving safer by advocating for autonomous vehicles.
Schlosser's first experience with the dangers of the roadways came when his mother was involved in a car crash when he was 12 years old. Schlosser's mother survived the accident, though another person involved was killed. Then, in 2017, Schlosser lost his girlfriend in a vehicle crash.
"I needed to do something," Schlosser, now 30, told Automotive News. "I needed to help find a safer means of transportation."
In a lecture Schlosser attended a few months later, Richard Bishop — longtime automotive consultant and former program manager for vehicle-highway automation at the Federal Highway Administration — spoke on autonomous vehicles. It was Schlosser's introduction to the possibilities of new modes of transportation.
The two connected a few months later and began working together on researching autonomous vehicles.
Inspired, Schlosser formed the DC Autonomous Vehicles Association in fall 2018, a group that advocates for safer vehicles and seeks to educate the community on AVs.
The group was organized through online service Meetup and engaged locals who shared a general interest in technology and mobility.
The group, now with more than 200 members, holds events, participates in local outreach with government officials, public organizations and businesses, and partners with key industry leaders.
For example, the DC-AVA held an event in December that drew notable panelists from Securing America's Future Energy, VW Credit Inc., the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and the Alliance For Automotive Innovation to discuss how autonomous vehicle policy can drive the future of mobility.
The group has also attracted attention from auto companies and other organizations focusing on AV policymaking. Schlosser said DC-AVA also partners with Connected CarTalk D.C. for monthly happy hours.
Other interest groups have sprung up in recent years, but the DC-AVA appears to be rare in that enthusiasts, not experts, started the organization.
A similar group based in Philadelphia, the Philly Autonomous Vehicle Enthusiasts, is open to anyone interested in mobility technologies, including connected, autonomous, electric and shared vehicles and how they relate to the future of transportation.
But grassroots AV advocacy groups generally start with experts in the field.
Back in D.C., the Autonomous Vehicles Working Group draws together a number of city leaders and administrators for peer-to-peer discussions on the implications of autonomous vehicles. Other coalitions rely on industry partners to channel their discussions.