Driverless car industry luring federal safety brass

"But so far, many more officials have followed Strickland out of government than back into it. University of South Carolina Law School professor Bryant Walker Smith, who specializes in emerging vehicle technology, said former agency officials can be key in helping companies navigate NHTSA’s “soft power” — the ability “to demand information, to initiate investigations, to make statements, to target one company for greater scrutiny than another.” These authorities may get less attention than NHTSA’s power to make regulations or initiate vehicle recalls, Smith said, but they can be even more significant.

Smith noted that low-level federal employees can bring nuts-and-bolts technical knowledge about policymaking, while senior officials can bring “a very astute understanding of the organization and its internal political dynamics.”"