The U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced plans to bring vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication to light vehicles to mitigate crashes. But when and how this will happen remains unclear. In the second of a two-part series, Siegfried Mortkowitz investigates.
Penetration is key
Once V2V becomes a reality – and no one doubts that it will – it will be vital to have it accepted as quickly and broadly as possible, since any vehicle on the road not V2V-enabled will increase the risk of accidents and decrease the effectiveness of the technology.
“We must reach a critical mass of deployment,” says Dave McNamara, president of McNamara Technology Solutions. “That means getting enough sensors on the road and gaining customer acceptance. The question is: Are they willing to pay for the technology?”
Zachary Doerzaph, director of the Center for Advanced Automotive Research at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, is more pessimistic about the timeframe for full V2V deployment, putting it at 20 years after a mandate is announced. “People are going to keep driving old cars,” he observes. “They are sentimental, and it’s fun.”
What’s more, passenger cars are not the only vehicles involved in road accidents, and the NHTSA has already been taken to task for not including trucks in its regulatory process.
In a recent blog, Roger Lanctot, associate director, automotive multimedia & communications service, Strategic Analytics, criticized this omission. “What specifically did not happen [in the NHTSA announcement] was a mandate for DSRC technology to be required for FMCSA class 6, 7 and 8 commercial vehicles as well as for emergency vehicles,” he wrote.
In his view, this could have a very negative impact on the technology. “By the time DSRC makes it to market, it is highly likely that competing technologies will already have been adopted via market mechanisms, rendering DSRC irrelevant,” he wrote. “The one thing [the] NHTSA could do to change this depressing prospect is to require the implementation of the technology in those vehicle segments (commercial) where it has the relevant authority.”
McNamara agrees that not including commercial vehicles was a mistake. “They should have spoken about commercial vehicles first,” he says. “[Commercial fleets] can afford it, and the federal government can make rules across fleets because it’s interstate commerce.”
McNamara believes that the reason commercial vehicles were omitted was because the NHTSA partnered with the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership – Vehicle Safety Communications (CAMP VSC3) in the V2V testing. The CAMP VSC3 consortium consists of R&D segments from eight passenger OEMs, including Ford, GM, Mercedes and Nissan.
But McNamara does not see the omission of trucks as a major problem. “You can do commercial vehicles immediately,” he says. “They would just add the equipment.”
Doerzaph cites another class of vehicle that would also benefit from the technology: motorcycles. “With motorcycles, you have a look-but-didn’t-see situation,” he says. “The alert would catch the driver’s attention when he could not actually see the cyclist,” he says. “It makes perfect sense for motorcyclists to send their positions. We are now researching that.”
Consumer acceptance of the new technology is a vital element of its deployment, and deploying a critical mass of V2V-enabled vehicles is vital to its functioning as intended.
But as many OEMs have already discovered, consumers are not eager to spend money on safety features; they assume safety technology should be part of standard equipment.
In addition, the issue of privacy, as it has been perceived by the public and a number of libertarian commentators, is a factor in consumer acceptance that cannot be taken lightly.
Still, at the CES, Ford’s Farid Ahmed-Zaid described the V2V communication from one vehicle to another as far from threatening. “If you’re within 900 to 1,500 feet, you’re going to hear that vehicle,” he said. “You’re not going to know if it’s a Taurus or its license plate [number]. Everything’s anonymous.”
However, “the question is, who’s using the data,” McNamara says. “The answer? Another car is using your data.”
It certainly raises the possibility of a driver or the police combining a visual sighting of an automobile with its V2V communication and tracking the vehicle that way, for whatever reason.
More pressing, however, is to convince consumers that the technology actually works and is worth the cost. “We’re trying to find the best way to have security and still have a system that’s deployable,” Ahmed-Zaid said. “We need to find a reliable security system and make sure the vehicles can download the credentials. This could be complex and costly.”
Security is essential to how well V2V works in preventing crashes, especially as it concerns the accuracy of the information communicated from one vehicle to the next. Or, as Ahmed-Zaid said, “How do I trust that you’re sending me accurate information?”
This is currently of great concern to OEMs and will require some time to work out. “There’s a whole certification process that needs to happen so you can warn the driver properly,” he explained.
These questions will no doubt be raised, and answered, as interested parties wait for the NHTSA to drop the other shoe and move the regulatory process forward. In the meantime, OEMs will continue to develop the technology.
Because each brand of car must be able to speak to every other brand of car, the technology requires a large degree of interoperability. Carmakers will, therefore, be working hard to refine their proprietary V2V HMIs.
“Each car manufacturer will be focused on differentiating on HMI – how each OEM deals with the impact of the alerts on the driver,” says Chris Ruff, CEO of UIEvolution, a provider of cross-platform connected device solutions. “This will become an important differentiator as the car becomes more autonomous.”
At the same time, some U.S. states are already working on implementing DSRC technology in basic V2I functions for the purpose of improving traffic flow and reducing gas consumption and vehicle emissions.
According to McNamara, Florida, Texas, New York and other states “will start to deploy wireless communication at intersections, to coordinate traffic light signaling and harmonize [traffic] speed – the so-called green wave.” “This will provide a lot of immediate benefits,” he says.
It certainly seems inevitable that, with or without a government mandate, cars will soon be speaking to other cars or, at least, the surrounding traffic infrastructure.
(For the first part of the series, see The future of V2V, part I.)
Siegfried Mortkowitz is a regular contributor to Telematics Update.
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