The Federal Highway Administration plans to separately issue guidance to help transportation planners integrate two-way wireless technology into roadway infrastructure such as traffic lights, stop signs and work zones. Cars could communicate information on road conditions to the infrastructure, which could then be passed along to other vehicles as they come along. Traffic lights would know when to stay green to avoid unnecessary waiting and reduce congestion.
There is a 90-day comment period on the proposal, and officials said they expect it will be about a year before a final rule is released.
The proposal calls for 50 percent of new vehicles to have the technology within two years after a final rule is issued, and 100 percent of vehicles with four years. It would still take years or even decades after that for the full potential of V2V to be realized. That’s because V2V can prevent collisions only among vehicles equipped with the technology.
It takes decades for the entire fleet of vehicles on the road to turn over. But the process of spreading V2V throughout the fleet may go faster if, as expected, devices are developed that enable motorists to add the technology to older vehicles.
Some automakers aren’t waiting for the final rule. General Motors has said previously that it plans to include V2V in some 2017 Cadillacs. The 2017 Mercedes E-Class sedans are also equipped with V2V.
V2V’s range is up to about 1,000 yards in all directions, even when sight is blocked by buildings or other obstacles. That gives the technology the advantage of being able to detect a potential collision before the driver can see the threat, unlike the sensors and cameras of self-driving cars that sense what’s immediately around the vehicle.
Industry and government officials see the two technologies as complementary. Ultimately, self-driving cars that are also equipped with V2V may be the answer to traffic congestion because they’ll be able to synchronize their movements so that they can merge seamlessly and safely travel in long, closely packed caravans at higher speeds. That would improve traffic flow and increase highway capacity.
To address cybersecurity, the proposal requires that V2V systems employ a security level of at least 128-bit encryption and comply with benchmarks of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
To protect privacy, V2V messages are anonymous — they don’t contain any information on the driver, owner of the vehicle, make or model, vehicle identification number or license plate. The messages are also of brief duration and not retained, therefore it’s not possible to use the messages to determine where a vehicle has been or to search for a particular vehicle among others on the road, said Debra Bezzina, an engineer with the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute who works on the technology.
One hurdle facing the technology is preservation of its exclusive right to use the 5.9 Ghz radio spectrum that Congress specifically set aside for V2V years ago. Since then, an explosion in the number of wireless devices and skyrocketing demand for ever faster Wi-Fi has led to pressure from technology companies who want permission to use the same spectrum.
The Federal Communications Commission is in the first phase of a three-phrase testing program to see if sharing the spectrum with Wi-Fi would interfere with V2V signals.
Spectrum sharing should be allowed “only if it can be proven that no harmful interference occurs,” said the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in a statement. “Any interference could result in a crash, or even worse, an injury or fatality.”
— Associated Press writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed to this report.
In this July 20, 2015 file photo, a pedestrian crosses in front of a vehicle as part of a demonstration at Mcity on its opening day on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Cars that wirelessly talk to each other are finally ready for the road, creating the potential to dramatically reduce traffic deaths, improve the safety of self-driving cars and someday maybe even help solve traffic jams, automakers and government officials say. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)