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NHTSA V2V Announcement is a Non-Event without a Commercial Vehicle Mandate

by Roger Lanctot | Feb 04, 2014

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States has announced its plans to continue studying and investigating the use of dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) technology for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication for the purpose of preventing light vehicle crashes:

“NHTSA is currently finalizing its analysis of the data gathered as part of its year-long pilot program (managed by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute) and will publish a research report on V2V communication technology for public comment in the coming weeks. The report will include analysis of the Department's research findings in several key areas including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. NHTSA will then begin working on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles in a future year, consistent with applicable legal requirements, Executive Orders, and guidance. DOT believes that the signal this announcement sends to the market will significantly enhance development of this technology and pave the way for market penetration of V2V safety applications.”

The significance of the announcement is that it applies only to light vehicles, not trucks; it requires no significant steps by any of the interested parties and it provides no time frame for those next steps although some journalists reported that the first steps toward rule making are expected to occur before the end of the Obama administration. What specifically did not happen was a mandate for DSRC technology to be required for FMCSA class 6,7 and 8 commercial vehicles as well as for emergency vehicles.

The announcement also did not make the Michigan test bed data available to the industry or other independent analysis. This means all interested parties will have to wait for NHTSA’s report.

The announcement did mark the movement toward better explaining to the general public what V2X is all about. The focus on collision avoidance was important, but it is not clear whether this selling message will overcome consumer concerns regarding security, privacy and surrendering control of the car – even for the purposes of avoiding a crash.

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. The one thing 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. An announcement of its plan to do so would have been a very big deal. Yesterday’s announcement fell far short of this.

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