Technology that could save more than 1,000 lives on the road per year is one step closer to reality after the Transportation Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking about vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology.
“By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety,” David Friedman, NHSTA’s deputy administrator, said in a release announcing the rulemaking. “V2V technology is ready to move toward implementation and this report highlights the work NHTSA and DOT are doing to bring this technology and its great safety benefits into the nation’s light vehicle fleet.”
The 34-page advanced notice proposes the creation of a new federal motor vehicle safety standard to require V2V communications capabilities for light vehicles – vehicles weighing less than 4.25 tons. The advanced notice does not contain actual rulings but rather questions for the public that the agency will use to craft eventual rules, due in 2016.
Among the V2V technology NHTSA is attempting to regulate, the agency is specifically looking at crash-warning applications, including intersection movement assist and left turn assist. Both of those applications rely on messages obtained from sensors to detect and warn drivers of potential hazards during those actions.
The advanced notice asks commenters for their opinions on how the agency can educate the public about security and privacy aspects of the technology. The agency said in the advanced notice that it will issue a draft privacy impact assessment alongside a potential forthcoming regulatory proposal that would require V2V technology in new vehicles in the future.
“We will draw on the knowledge of security experts inside and outside government in devising that review,” the advanced notice said. “We invite knowledgeable commenters to address the questions […] to help ensure we are drawing on the full range of expertise in dealing with these issues.”
The advanced notice of rulemaking is currently up for public comment on regulations.gov.
Accompanying the notice of proposed rulemaking was a report from the agency on the potential effectiveness of the technology. According to the report, NHTSA’s standards have already reduced highway fatalities and injuries in the more than 40 years since its establishment in 1970.
“A significant number of annual crashes remain that could potentially be addressed through expanded use of more advanced crash avoidance technologies,” the report said. “The agency estimates there are approximately five million annual vehicle crashes with attendant property damage, injuries and fatalities. While it may seem obvious, if technology can help drivers avoid crashes, the damage due to crashes simply never occurs.”
Preliminary NHTSA estimates in the report for the V2V equipment and technology would cost approximately $350 per vehicle in 2020, but if the equipment becomes more commonplace, that price could reduce significantly by 2058.
The V2V communications systems currently transmit and receive messages in the 5.8-5.9 GHz frequency — that frequency is currently under Federal Communications Commission consideration on whether to allow Wi-Fi enabled technologies to operate in that same spectrum.
“More research needs to be done on whether these Wi-Fi enabled devices can share the spectrum successfully with V2V, and if so, how,” the report said.
But one of the main issues facing the implementation of V2V technologies is customer acceptance and maintenance.
“If consumers do not accept a required safety technology, the technology will not create the safety benefits that the agency expects,” the report said. “Rather than return to a dealership periodically for a download of new certificates, consumers may choose instead to live with non-functioning V2V capabilities.”
The report said the agency is looking into making these downloads automatic, but more research is required.
A November 2013 report from the Government Accountability Office said the technology faces a number of challenges, but ultimately the onus was on NHTSA to determine how to proceed with implementation and rulemaking with the issue.