The Department of Transportation’s support will help advance vehicle-centric information and communication technologies, but it must offer clearer V2V communication guidelines and timelines to be useful to the industry.
On 3 February 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT's) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it will take steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology for passenger cars and light trucks. Later this year, NHTSA will publish a research report that analyzes the DOT’s research findings on technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. NHTSA will then work on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles at a future date.
The DOT announcement is the strongest signal thus far that the U.S. government plans to use IT to improve road traffic safety and utilization, and to reduce environmental impact. The DOT's action is the earliest globally among government entities, and is likely to:
Accelerate the public policy decision-making of other countries that are evaluating or piloting technologies.
Positively impact other technologies that will affect automobiles and road infrastructure, including e-call functions, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications and self-driving vehicles.
The DOT's announcement does create uncertainty that will require clarification or further action:
It lacks a deployment timeline and is short on details regarding the pending communication technology requirements, which the automotive industry requires to create consumer-targeted offerings. As a result, the final bill may be watered down or offer limited or delayed benefits. The technologies are likely to center on the dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) protocol, but might also include Wi-Fi and cellular spectrums to incorporate infrastructure and pedestrian notifications.
The initial mandate calls for the V2V communication technology to trigger warnings (such as a flashing light to warn drivers when another vehicle runs a red light), rather than utilizing active safety systems (such as automatic braking). Making the driver responsible for reacting to traffic problems limits the systems' effectiveness and appeal to consumers, and makes them more difficult for automakers to market and price advantageously.
Even if the DOT addresses the announcement's shortcomings, V2V communication benefits will not be fully realized for years, until vehicles that can communicate with each other attain critical mass on the roads. This makes a government mandate for automakers' compliance critical. If adoption is widespread, safety benefits will be apparent within eight years; in approximately 15 years, nearly all U.S. vehicles would include V2V technology.
Automakers, automotive suppliers and technology providers:
Work with regulators to define the implementation timeline for V2V based on your in-vehicle technology road map. For example, integrate a DSRC-based communication module with a connectivity offering that includes other advanced driver assistance system functions, especially active safety systems, and communication technologies. Appeal to drivers' need to extend their digital lifestyle to the vehicle, which will increase their willingness to pay for the technology, as V2V capability by itself offers fewer initial benefits.
Seek ways to offset the cost of enabling V2V communication by meeting other regulatory requirements. For example, V2V technologies can help address fuel efficiency mandates by improving road utilization and minimizing vehicle congestion.
Leverage U.S.-centric efforts to comply with V2V mandates globally and to expand technology usage scenarios. For example, use DSRC for automated payments for road tolling and automated paying, to enable automakers to tap into commercial transactions initiated from within the vehicle.