DOT Initiates Process to Mandate Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications Technology In New Vehicles

By Tom DeCesar, Ed Fishman, Cliff Rothenstein and Marty Stern

A new federal proposal would require new passenger cars and trucks to contain vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology, which uses radio communications to allow vehicles to “talk” to each other and, for example, warn drivers of safety hazards.  Cars that have this technology installed can communicate without the active involvement of a driver or passengers.  Proponents believe this technology also can be used to reduce vehicle emissions, fuel consumption and traffic congestion.  V2V is seen by many as an important part of the new wave of intelligent transportation systems, which will offer improved safety and functionality in the U.S. surface transportation network.

The proposal was released in an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  In the ANPRM, NHTSA determined that mandating V2V technology in future light passenger vehicles is critical to V2V’s success, because the technology necessarily depends on the exchange of information with other V2V-equipped vehicles.  V2V’s success also will depend on the applications developed to utilize this technology.  However, NHTSA only plans to mandate that new vehicles be equipped with V2V communication devices — it does not plan to require such vehicles to have specific V2V applications (such as lane change or intersection assistance).  Instead, NHTSA supports allowing automotive suppliers and ITS companies to innovate and develop V2V applications in a market-driven environment.

As currently planned, V2V communications will be transmitted using dedicated short-range communications in the 5.9 GHz spectrum dedicated for V2V communications, although NHTSA requests public comment on alternative communication methods, and the FCC is exploring whether this spectrum can be opened to other users.  As we discussed in our earlier post, there is a significant ongoing debate regarding whether this prime territory should be opened to unlicensed WiFi use to meet expected future demand.

In conjunction with the issuance of the ANPRM, NHTSA released a NHTSA staff research report entitled: “Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: Readiness of V2V Technology for Application.”  The research report explains in depth the authors’ views on a number of technical, legal and policy issues related to V2V technology.  In particular, the report describes the authors’ views of NHTSA’s legal authority to mandate V2V technology, including its motor vehicle safety jurisdiction over software and other electronics, which have proven highly controversial in the context of NHTSA’s proposed voluntary guidelines involving how portable electronic devices, such as smartphones, should operate in cars.  The report also discusses significant legal and policy issues such as liability, privacy, and security related to V2V.

As part of its ANPRM and associated research report, NHTSA requests comments and data on a number of subjects, including:

a)       Safety:  What roadway environments and driving situations would benefit most from V2V technology?

b)      Technology: is dedicated short-range communications an appropriate communications platform or is NHTSA backing the “wrong” technology?

c)       NHTSA’s legal authority: Can NHTSA require V2V technology in vehicles, especially with regard to non-integrated, aftermarket equipment and software?

d)      V2V research areas: What must be researched to make the technology successful?  NHTSA is especially interested in research on types of communication used in V2V systems, the use of a basic safety message, and sharing the 5.9 GHz spectrum with unlicensed users.

e)       Applications: What safety, environmental and/or mobility applications should be developed?

f)       Public acceptance of V2V technology.

g)      Security and privacy concerns arising from improper access to V2V devices or improper use of V2V data.

h)      Liability allocation and related concerns of the automotive industry.

i)        Cost and benefit estimates: NHTSA is especially interested in how to simulate and/or test V2V technology.  NHTSA also suggests studies on driver distraction and V2V use.

j)        Future ITS technology: How will V2V communication technology interface with other ITS technology, such as autonomous driving or collision avoidance technology?


While NHTSA’s ANPRM is an important step towards implementation of V2V communications, and ITS technology in general, the laundry list of items on which NHTSA seeks comments shows that a number of significant issues must still be addressed.  These issues will continue to receive attention as V2V technology is implemented in research and pilot project settings, but automotive and ITS industry participants should consider filing comments in response to the current ANPRM so that their perspectives are taken into account at the ground level.

Comments on the ANPRM are due by October 20, 2014.


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