Regulators move forward on DSRC proposal for V2V

The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule that would advance the deployment of connected vehicle technologies throughout the U.S. light vehicle fleet. (Image: U.S. DOT)

The U.S. Department of Transportation is moving forward with a proposal to mandate dedicated short range communications (DSRC) for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) on new light-duty vehicles, a move that pleases car makers and the DSRC camp but not those who are wary of DSRC’s security and safety risks.

The department said its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would enable “a multitude of new crash-avoidance applications that, once fully deployed, could prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes every year by helping vehicles ‘talk’ to each other.” DSRC naysayers, however, argue that the applications envisioned for DSRC-based V2V will be available through evolving cellular technology and that LTE Advanced and 5G are better able to deliver on the promises of safer cars and roads.

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The DOT’s move didn’t come as a big surprise. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced in February 2014 that the department would accelerate its work to enable V2V, directing the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to begin work on the rulemaking. NHTSA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in August 2014. The DOT says advancement of the V2V rulemaking complements the department’s work to accelerate the development and deployment of automated vehicles.

The proposed rule announced today would require automakers to include V2V technologies in all new light-duty vehicles. The rule also proposes requiring V2V devices to “speak the same language” through standardized messaging developed with industry.

Separately, the department’s Federal Highway Administration plans to soon issue guidance for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications, which would help transportation planners integrate the technologies to allow vehicles to “talk” to roadway infrastructure such as traffic lights, stop signs and work zones to improve mobility, reduce congestion and improve safety.

The NPRM will be open for public comment for 90 days, and already a lot of stakeholders are weighing in.

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who along with fellow Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has called for sharing the 5.9 GHz band with Wi-Fi, issued a statement saying that although he questions whether DSRC will ever live up to expectations, DOT’s proposal to mandate DSRC standards “should not, and must not, delay or impact the FCC’s work to test and potentially approve spectrum sharing in the 5.9 GHz band.” He added that the commission must ensure that this band is used as efficiently as possible, including allowing unlicensed operations, for such purposes as Wi-Fi, without causing harmful interference to DSRC safety-of-life technologies.

Public Knowledge and Open Technology Institute at New America filed a petition in June asking for an emergency stay of DSRC operations in the 5.9 GHz Band, saying DSRC service lacks rules to protect user privacy or to protect DSRC units from malware or other forms of cybersecurity attacks. John Gasparini, policy fellow at Public Knowledge, today said the organization will be filing comments on the new NPRM. “NHTSA’s silence on issues relating to non-safety applications using DSRC hardware and spectrum … speaks to the agency’s tacit admission that it lacks authority to comprehensively address issues relating to the DSRC service,” he said in a prepared statement. “The NPRM does not examine the grave threat posed by connecting secure DSRC technology to the demonstrably insecure modern car, nor to the broader internet and all the threats it contains.”

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association said in a statement that it believes the 5.9 GHz band is the best near-term hope to relieve increasing congestion in the Wi-Fi bands and to make gigabit Wi-Fi a reality. “We remain committed to a sharing solution that ensures that the American people benefit from additional Wi-Fi spectrum while protecting the safety warning systems under consideration by NHTSA from harmful interference,” NCTA said.

Meanwhile, a coalition of automakers, highway safety advocates and intelligent transportation organizations welcomed the release of the NPRM, saying it's a critical step to enabling connected car technologies. They said the 5.9 GHz band is the only fully tested and deployable communications technology in existence today that can accomplish the goal of improving safety on roadways, noting that the NHTSA estimates that just two of the many V2V applications now being developed will save 1,000 lives per year.

RELATED: Intel, Qualcomm, others duking it out in connected car arena

Analysts at Mobile Experts recently released a report noting the political battle raging between the auto industry pushing for adoption of DSRC using 802.11p and the wireless industry, led by Qualcomm, to push for extension of Wi-Fi into the band and LTE for V2V communications. While Qualcomm has been involved in both DSRC and is fighting for V2X cellular technologies, it was not immediately available for comment today.