US Regulators Clashing With Automobile and Telecom Companies Over V2V Rules

A new federal proposal for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications comes from a dozen years of discussions, but it may have chosen an unpopular technology.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sees V2V being essential in advancing connectivity, autonomous vehicles, and safety. The agency estimates up to 1,321 lives a year could be saved by V2V-related applications if the mandate goes is adopted.

The new technology will see its launch next year in the 2017 Cadillac CTS.

The NHTSA proposal would mandate V2V technology, and it coincides with the Department of Transportation seeking guidance for vehicle-to-infrastructure communication and testing it across the country.

“This rule is something that has been contemplated for more than 12 years,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “From a safety perspective, this is a no-brainer.”

Analysts and automotive executives that Automotive News spoke with see it differently. Concerns are centered on the proposed NHTSA rule being built around radio-based technology, which is known as dedicated short-range communication. Opponents say that technology will be outdated by the time the new rule takes effect in the market.

“There are serious limitations to [dedicated short-range communication] technology,” said Roger Lanctot, an analyst with Strategy Analytics and a supporter of using newer cellular technology.

Lanctot says that the solution is already in place with the network of cell towers already in place to interconnect mobile phones. He and other advocates of cellular technology can list problems making short-range communication more difficult to make work.

The proposed rule will need cities and states to support the roll out of dedicated short-range receivers on highways and intersections that would exchange information with connected cars. The DOT has created test sites around the country, but there are serious questions over who would fund the proposed infrastructure.

The cellular model holds the interest of a few automakers, especially its next version. The next generation Wi-Fi technology for cellular networks coming out, 5G, has gained enough support from Audi, BMW, and Daimler to forge an association with telecom companies Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, Intel, and Nokia. The alliance is studying the potential of 5G networks for future vehicles.

“We expect 5G to become the worldwide dominating mobile communications standard of the next decade,” Christoph Grote, senior vice president for electronics at BMW, said in a press release announcing the new alliance.

SEE ALSO:  China Adopting National Standard for V2V Supporting Autonomous Vehicles

NHTSA is concerned that 5G is an unknown, and it may take years for it to be available on the market. That agency has evaluated available technologies such as satellite and Wi-Fi. Dedicated-short range could resolve the problem of getting V2V out on the market, one administrator said.

Dedicated short-range communication “is the only wireless technology capable of meeting requirements,” said Ken Leonard, the Transportation Department’s chief of intelligent transportation systems. “I hear a lot of discussion that 5G is going to come, but I don’t know when, whether it’s ’18, ’20 or ’25.”

Gary Smith, General Motors’ global R&D director, thinks these discussions are a distraction away from adopting a technology already on the market.

Dedicated short-range communication technology is the “only game in town,” Smith said. “Not to do it now, it’s an opportunity that we’re squandering.”

He also pointed out that the proposed rule allows automakers to use “other technologies that meet certain performance and interoperability requirements.”

The NHTSA rule is expected to see strong debates as it commences a 90-day comment period. Whoever wins the argument, there may be gains made by the introduction of V2V communications in moving the new technology forward.

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