Vehicle to Vehicle Communications Poised to Revolutionize Highway Safety?

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On August 20th, 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it is accepting comments for a proposed motor vehicle standard that would require new vehicles to have vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communications compatibility. New passenger cars, light trucks, pickups, and SUVs would all be affected by this new regulation and would likely be required to be equipped with two dedicated short range communication devices (DSRC) with one for safety communications and one for security communications. While the NHTSA is attempting to develop a standardized set of rules for the underlying system’s functioning, it is employing a market-based approach for the development of specific user-facing safety applications. The NHTSA’s invitation to comment is focused on the low-level systems including issues like technical feasibility, privacy, security, cost, and safety benefits.

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Why the request for rule-making prior to V2V systems becoming widespread?

When new communicative technologies are developed their usefulness is often directly related to the number of other devices that it can reliably communicate with. For instance, the contrast between e-mail service and proprietary messaging networks can make this point clear. With e-mail, due to the standardized and open protocol, you can send an electronic message to anyone regardless of their internet service provider, type of computer, or type of mobile device. Compare that to proprietary instant messaging applications where networks like WhatsApp, LINE, iMessage, and Hangouts are all incompatible, cannot communicate with each other, and may require a certain type of device to function. While the proprietary networks certainly have a level of usefulness, that utility only exists if both users utilize the same network. E-mail is typically favored for business and many other communications because of its ubiquity.

The NHTSA’s action is an attempt to push the development of V2V technology on a track similar to e-mail where vehicles manufactured by Ford, GM Chrysler, Subaru, and more all speak the same language. That is, the NHTSA is attempting to prevent the development of numerous, but incompatible, V2V systems and networks that are segmented by manufacturer. The V2V system’s usefulness is dependent upon the number of vehicles it is able to communicate with and the types of information that can be exchanged. A single standard that all vehicle manufactures can implement is likely to maximize the usefulness and effectiveness of V2V communications systems.

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What Could V2V Systems Accomplish?

In short, the approach by the NHTSA is likely to produce applications of safety and other uses to which there is a market demand. While it is difficult to project the exact direction market forces will drive V2V technology, certain applications seem to almost be a certainty. These include:

  • Crash warning technologies – V2V applications like intersection movement assist (IMA) and left turn assist (LTA) can assist drivers in detecting other vehicles approaching the intersection and other safety risks. Technologies like these can prevent accidents and catastrophic injuries like a traumatic brain injury or broken bones. Other safety applications are expected to be developed as market demand dictates.
  • Fuel saving technology – The NHTSA believes the V2V systems may be able to encourage more efficient driving by accounting for road conditions, traffic signals, and other factors and then intelligently altering the vehicle’s speed.
  • Traffic avoidance systems – While systems like Google Maps have already implemented peer to peer traffic sharing, V2V systems would greatly increase the pool of reporting vehicles. This information can be utilized to re-route vehicles around traffic or create a more even distribution of cars across the transportation network.

We are already seeing the incipient versions of many of these technologies. However as time continues these systems are likely to become more sophisticate and more integrated into our vehicles and daily lives.

What are the challenges facing V2V systems?

NORWALK,CT - FEBRUARY 09: Plow trucks on I-95 after winter sto

Before the V2V system can be implemented in vehicles and deployed nationwide a number of technical and other challenges must be met.

  • Technical feasibility – There are a broad array of technical concerns and considerations that the NHTSA is seeking comment on. One of these issues is whether wireless spectrum sharing on the 5.9ghz band (intended for use by DSRCs) would be feasible and what impacts to the system may result. Other questions include whether the use of two DSRC devices is required and if the interoperability standards are sufficiently mature for implementation.
  • Public acceptance – With no authority to force people to retrofit DSRCs into older vehicles, the NHTSA expects that it could take 15-20 years before the technology is pervasive. It is seeking comment on how public acceptance can be hastened.
  • Privacy – A V2V system is sure to contain data regarding the places you have traveled to, the time you set out, and the time it took for your journey. The foregoing only addresses perhaps the most glaring types of data a system of this type could store or transmit. Protection of user information is essential to both acceptance and safety.
  • Security – The proposed system is based on a machine-to-machine public-key infrastructure. The NHTSA is seeking comment regarding whether this security protocol will be the best fit and provide sufficient encryption of data.

The NHTSA is seeking comment on these and other issues that may act as an obstacle to the widespread adoption of V2V systems.

While the V2V technology offers the promise of significantly reducing vehicular accidents, a great deal of work remains. In the meantime, people will continue to suffer serious or fatal injuries on roadways and highways throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the United States. If you were seriously injured in a car, truck, or SUV crash contact a Berks County car accident lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm today by calling (215) 246-9000 or contact us online.

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