Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communications
February 4, 2014

Feds To Propose Mandate For Vehicle-To-Vehicle Communications

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Obama administration officials announced on Monday that they will move forward with new rules requiring automakers to equip cars and light trucks with wireless vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the technology, which allows vehicles to communicate with one other, has the potential to dramatically reduce accidents, deaths and injuries on the nation's roads.

"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," he said.

"By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it will finalizing analysis of data gathered as part of its year-long V2V pilot program, and will publish a research report about the technology for public comment in the coming weeks. The agency said it would then begin “working on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles in a future year, consistent with applicable legal requirements, Executive Orders, and guidance.”

The agency did not say when a V2V mandate might take effect, but Foxx said he hopes to have the regulatory proposal completed by the end of President Obama’s current term.

“The rule-making process involves a substantial amount of public input,” Foxx said. “And the timing is fluid.”

Major automakers have been experimenting with V2V communication for years, and Monday’s announcement by the government will likely lead to a uniform standard.

The technology the NHTSA will propose uses a dedicated short range radio network that allows vehicles to communicate with one another at distances up to 300 yards, sharing information about their position, heading, speed and other data at up to 10 times per second. This would allow, for example, a car to reliably detect when a vehicle in front of it is braking hard, or has failed to stop at a red light. The vehicle's computer would then alert the driver to an impending collision.

The system also offers drivers a 360-degree view of their surroundings, so they can see around a curve ahead in the road, or around a large truck blocking their view, for example. The technology could also allow things such as weather and traffic conditions to be shared between vehicles.

Although V2V technology will initially assist drivers, the NHTSA said it is also considering linking these systems to "active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors” that could allow a car to brake or steer to avoid a collision without any driver involvement.

The government said it believes Monday’s announcement sends a signal to the market that will “significantly enhance development of this [V2V] technology and pave the way for market penetration of V2V safety applications.”

“Today’s announcement turns research into action,” said Greg Winfree, assistant secretary for research and technology at the Department of Transportation (DoT).

“Automotive technology has been about surviving crashes, but in the future, it will be about preventing them.”

Scott Belcher, chief executive of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, said V2V technology will change driving as we know it.

"Over time, we'll see a reduction in crashes. Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash,” he told The Associated Press. (AP)

The group says the technology would add from between $100 to $200 to the cost of a new car.

Other industry groups generally welcomed Monday’s NHTSA announcement, but sounded a note of caution.

Gloria Berquist, Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs of The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers trade group, noted that automakers have invested heavily in safety technology and systems.

“We will review today’s announcement and engage with NHTSA in next steps,” Berquist said in a statement.

Michael J. Stanton, president and chief executive of The Association of Global Automakers, a trade group representing 13 automakers, praised the NHTSA’s announcement, saying V2V “has the potential to save thousands of lives.”

However, he cautioned regulators to proceed cautiously, given that V2V systems operate in the 5.9 GHz frequency band, a spectrum the FCC is considering opening to unlicensed Wi-Fi devices.

“We’re concerned that opening up the 5.9 GHz frequency band to other wireless users could cause harmful interference and affect the integrity of the V2V safety communications,” Stanton said in a statement.

“Communication delays of even thousandths of a single second matter when dealing with auto and highway safety. That’s why we are working with the Wi-Fi industry to find out if this spectrum can safely be shared.”

Berquist echoed this concern.

“DSRC radios may well play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together.”

Finally, although the goal of V2V is to prevent accidents, the idea of networked cars will no doubt raise the issue of consumer privacy.

NBC News cited a recent Harris Poll that found nearly nine in ten Americans would be “worried” about driving in a fully autonomous vehicle, while more than one-third worry about privacy issues, such as government, businesses and insurance companies tracking where and how they drive.

“What remains to be addressed is security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the ‘network effect’ and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework,” Berquist said.