DOT Recommends Mandating V2V in Cars, Light Trucks

Looking to add some fuel to the rollout of connected vehicles, the Department of Transportation has proposed mandating vehicle-to-vehicle communications (using dedicated short-range communications or DSRC) on all passenger cars and trucks, which it said would prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes.

The DOT Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would also "require that all V2V devices must 'speak the same language' through a standard technology. The agency is also proposing that privacy and security measures are employed in any V2V device."

The FCC has been working on a framework for testing the compatibility of V2V communications—which has spectrum reserved in the 5.9 GHz band—with cable Wi-Fi service, which is looking for more room in that portion of the band for unlicensed spectrum for its hot spots, cable's principal mobile broadband play.

On June 1, the commission issued a public notice seeking comment on sharing in the 5.9 GHz band, including setting a January 2017 deadline for completing testing of sharing in the band.

Separately, DOT plans to issue guidance "soon" on V2Infrastructure communications, so cars can "talk" to traffic lights, stop signs and work zones.

DOT will solicit comments on the proposal before issuing a final rule.

While DOT was playing up all the potential benefits of V2V—increased safety, reduced congestion, environmental—Republican FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly was a little less sanguine.

"Although I question 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 said. "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."

DOT said it is focused on privacy and cybersecurity issues with V2V ("at least 128-bit encryption") but got some extra impetus from Capitol Hill.

“While these new technologies have the potential to save lives, security and privacy cannot be an afterthought in this new era of connected cars,” said Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). “If hackers access a vehicle’s systems, privacy could be compromised, the safety of the vehicle could be put at risk and disaster could ensue. As this important rulemaking proceeds, we call on the Department of Transportation to ensure that vehicles have robust cybersecurity and privacy protections in place before automakers deploy vehicle-2-vehicle and vehicle-2-infrastructure communication technologies.”

“We are pleased that NHTSA is proposing to improve highway safety through vehicle-to-vehicle communications," said FCC spokesman Neil Grace. "As the technical agency charged with managing commercial spectrum, the Commission has already provided access to the radio spectrum for this purpose. We are also exploring sharing arrangements with consumer devices so long as they do not interfere with vehicle communications. NHTSA’s proposal is a step in the right direction for consumers, and the FCC looks forward to continued cooperation with the Department of Transportation and other stakeholders on this complex issue.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.