Christina Aizcorbe has newly joined Velodyne Lidar as our Vice President of Government Affairs. She is responsible for building an effective government affairs strategy in areas such as furthering safety on roadways and in communities, advancing sustainability and promoting Velodyne technology.
With a broad background in Federal regulation, administrative law, and the legislative process, Christina brings an extensive network across Federal executive branch agencies, U.S. Congress, and the private sector.
Most recently, Christina served as Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). There, she managed activities of the Office of the General Counsel and a departmental legal staff of 500+ attorneys. Christina led major policy reforms in new mobility and advanced technologies including automated driving systems, unmanned aircraft systems, connected infrastructure, and more.
Christina has also held senior counsel positions on U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees, as well as with the Small Business Administration. She received her law degree from the Catholic University of America and B.A. from Drake University.
We chatted with Christina to learn more about her and Velodyne’s priorities with the public sector.
Christina: The short answer is, everything! My background in small business and the regulatory process was not limited to any specific industry, so the wide variety of applications for lidar really piqued my interest. The time we are in now is so fascinating for moving the needle from theoretical to actual. And the integration of Velodyne’s solutions across the board – whether in infrastructure, mapping, robotics, drones or elsewhere – makes me excited for what new questions or issues each day will bring. It certainly satisfies my interest to keep learning and finding ways to approach novel issues.
I’ve spent my career working to make Federal regulation more efficient and transparent, to reduce barriers to entry and to enable innovation. Much of my interest grew out of working with smaller companies trying to start up and grow their business, often without the tools or resources necessary to understand complex systems of regulatory requirements. My recent experience crafting regulatory policy in the autonomous transportation space at USDOT lends itself naturally to a technology like lidar, as the industry and its associated regulatory landscape develops.
The Velodyne team, their unending drive and enthusiasm, and their commitment to quality and safety, provide the perfect environment for me to continue contributing to the development of safety-focused policies that will accommodate the integration of this technology and all its benefits.
Christina: There is – and for years has been – a lot of excitement about what lidar and other technologies with similar applications can do. Words like “autonomous” and “smart” are ubiquitous but can mean different things to different people at different times. (I’m still waiting on my Jetsons model kitchen and landing pad, by the way). Education about specific technologies, including practical and achievable benefits or limitations of those technologies, is critical to informed policymaking.
One of my top priorities is to help government stakeholders who influence how our technology is adopted understand what it is, and to work collaboratively to maximize its benefits – whether to reduce roadway injuries and fatalities, improve access and mobility, enhance environmental sustainability, or realize economic efficiencies. We continue to learn more ways lidar can improve our quality of life in meaningful ways.
Christina: NHTSA, lawmakers, and many States and localities have recognized the wide range of safety benefits we are achieving through advancements in automotive technology, including advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features. Lidar provides a unique benefit not fully available through other technologies in enabling real-time response in low-light conditions. The vast majority of pedestrian fatalities occur during dark lighting conditions, so lidar provides a very real safety benefit for the protection of vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. Velodyne has focused a great deal on educating the public about these benefits and will continue to prioritize the incorporation of pedestrian automatic emergency braking as an essential ADAS safety feature.
Christina: From my perspective, in the simplest of terms, effective lawmaking and policymaking depends on information. Government cannot effectively govern without information: cost and benefit data, technical or practical constraints, public feedback, etc. This is especially the case when the government is involved in developing new regulatory frameworks that contemplate nascent or evolving technologies.
Efforts of the lidar industry to educate our governmental counterparts will be important as they consider new legislation, programs, rules, performance standards, and guidance that shape how the technology is integrated. This is significant when those stakeholders are charged with ensuring safety and there are ample, demonstrated safety benefits to be gained with lidar. Velodyne’s extensive commitment to these core values through direct partnership with groups like Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) advances this work.
Christina: I am a Greek-American “D.C. transplant” from the Midwest, and have been told that I make the world’s best baklava. When I’m not fighting 17-year cicadas, groundhogs and deer away from my struggling plants, I pretend to know as much about LEGO and robot building as my engineer husband and two young sons. Many people don’t realize this, but finding time “off-the-clock” is hard in government, so I’ve been enjoying reacquainting myself with weekends and my family; hiking the woods with our boys, catching minnows, and learning about assorted wildlife through iNaturalist and our local community here in Northern Virginia. But any proper day in our house is capped off with a decent glass of red wine.