Analyst questions DSRC-based V2V communications for vehicle safety, points to LTE Advanced and 5G instead

Although auto makers, technology companies and regulators appear to be moving ahead with wireless technology that promises to prevent many auto accidents, a handful of industry players are speaking out against the technology as untried, unneeded and potentially unsecure.

"The technology is unproven and its adoption unwise, especially if that adoption interferes with the proliferation and adoption of IoT systems and services capable of offering immediate benefits in saving and enhancing lives," summarized Strategy Analytics analyst Roger Lanctot in a post on the firm's website detailing a wide range of concerns with dedicated short range communication (DSRC) technology -- the technology the auto industry is considering for wireless communications between vehicles.

Specifically, Lanctot argued that DSRC is "unproven in real-world circumstances" and that the specification for the technology has been rewritten a number of times but still suffers from a number of shortcomings. He added that, to work properly, the technology "requires a level of cooperation and collaboration between car makers that does not exist today" and that it isn't used by any other companies or industries and therefore won't benefit from an already-established ecosystem of vendors and suppliers.

Importantly, Lanctot noted that, if it is deployed, DSRC will open another entry point to hackers. "The massive security vulnerability created by the implementation of V2V is beyond the capacity of car companies today to cope," he said, pointing to recent hacks into OnStar's RemoteLink mobile app and Chrysler/Fiat's Uconnect infotainment and in-car technology.

And, for the wireless industry specifically, Lanctot said that "all of the applications envisioned for DSRC-based V2V will eventually be available via the existing evolving cellular network -- in fact, many already exist such as sign recognition, traffic light signal-phase-and-timing (SPAT), and the presence of road hazards."

He added: "LTE Advanced and 5G will provide both the necessary low latency and direct device-to-device communication."

In his post, Lanctot singled out the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers as a proponent of DSRC technology. Representatives from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers did not respond to repeated requests for comment from FierceWirelessTech.

Lanctot is not alone in his concerns over DSRC. T. Russell Shields, an executive in the automotive market who headed navigation company Navteq before Nokia acquired it in 2007, said that the 802.11p standard used for DSRC is now 15 years old and has been replaced by better technologies for vehicle communications. "LTE now supports DSRC as LTE Direct. This was included in 3GPP Release 12. LTE Direct is improved in 3GPP Release 13 and further improvements will be in Release 14. As a DSRC bearer protocol, LTE Direct can be used perfectly in the 5.9 GHz allocation," he told FierceWirelessTech.

V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communications are nothing new. In 1999, the FCC allocated 75 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band to be used by "intelligent transportation systems" (ITS). The current DSRC standard uses 802.11p and was created by the FCC and other groups for cars to communicate with each other, thereby allowing cars to alert drivers of upcoming slowdowns -- or even to brake automatically if a sudden slowdown occurs. The notion of V2V communications received a boost in recent years by the introduction of various connected car services and autonomous vehicle projects like Google's self-driving car.

Indeed, in May, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it would speed up its V2V technology testing schedule in order to send a proposed rule on the topic to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in in 2016.

Further, some auto makers are rallying to the technology with promises of support. General Motors said it would deploy DSRC V2V technology in its Cadillac CTS vehicles for their model year 2017 -- GM's DSRC-capable Cadillac CTS cars are scheduled to be available for purchase as early as next year.

Concurrently, the FCC is moving forward with efforts to explore sharing the 75 MHz of spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band earmarked for DSRC with other unlicensed users, in an effort to increase the amount of spectrum available to the technology industry. As a result, the automotive industry is now researching a sharing technology initially proposed by Cisco (a rival sharing proposal by Qualcomm failed to generate support among auto companies). The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers and Cisco said they will soon begin testing the sharing technology. "The parties explained that the results of this testing should provide the FCC with empirical evidence to determine whether this technology has the technical capability to foster unlicensed Wi-Fi use of the 5.9 GHz band without causing harmful interference to incumbent DSRC operations, thereby promoting continued deployment of innovative and pathbreaking new motor vehicle safety systems," the groups said in a recent FCC filing.

For more:
- see this Strategy Analytics post

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