Carving a Path Forward on Connected Vehicles

September 26, 2018

On Tuesday evening, CarTalkDC and OmniAir Consortium hosted a V2X and spectrum allocation roundtable bringing together transportation and short-range communications experts. Greg Rogers of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) (formerly of Eno) moderated a panel consisting of Joe Averkamp of Parson, Peter Esser of NXP Semi Conductors, and Mark Johnson of OmniAir Consortium.

While much of the hype from telecomm companies and media these days is around the future of using Cellular-V2X technology for short range vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, this panel focused on the potential immediate benefits of focusing on dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) for V2V and V2I. (To catch up on the Cellular-V2X/5G versus DSRC debate, check out ETW’s Point/Counterpoint from earlier this month.)

Based on on-going research and testing efforts at USDOT, including USDOT Connected Vehicles Pilot Deployments like the one in Ann Arbor, NHTSA estimates that connected vehicle technology could reduce non-impaired collisions by up to 80 percent. In the final weeks of the Obama administration in January 2017, NHTSA issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would have required V2V communication technology to be installed in all new light duty vehicles by 2023. However, the debate about how to move forward with implementing connected vehicle technology – and which method of communications should be used – has stalled movement on the proposed rulemaking under the Trump Administration.

The panel argued that DSRC technology exists now and can provide safety benefits, and therefore should be implemented as soon and as ubiquitously as possible. Peter Esser insisted that one voice in favor of timely DSRC implementation is the largest stakeholder group in the country—the American public. He suggested that the industry needs to educate the public, because if consumers knew the safety benefits they could be experiencing, they would insist on buying vehicles with enabled DSRC technology.

USDOT relies on standards to create safer roadway environments. Guides like the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Design create a standardized national framework for physical infrastructure to require safe design and support driver expectancy. It makes sense, then, to standardize communication over the spectrum leading to similar safety benefits. However, to standardize, someone needs to take the lead in developing and enforcing standards, and right now there is a vacuum in that space. The Department of Transportation or the Federal Communications Commission would be logical spearheads, and still have the opportunity to act.

Panelists agreed we should “be bullish” about the potential of DSRC and move forward with incorporating it into our transportation network – but, in the meantime, we should also create an evolution plan to capitalize on C-V2X when it is proven to be ready for wider use.. There will always be better technology on the horizon, and we can incentivize safety benefits while preparing to adjust with new opportunities. So for now, why not both? The answer, of course, is limited resources.

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