NHTSA Proposes Mandating V2V Communications

Move Would Light Fire Under Need to Establish Ability to Share with Cable Wi-Fi
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The FCC has been studying whether cable Wi-Fi using unlicensed spectrum and widespread intelligent vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, which has a license to use the spectrum, can coexist in the 5.9 GHz band--the FCC thinks they can. The FCC may have to put the pedal to the metal.

The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has put out an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) proposing to require all new passenger cars and light trucks be capable of talking to each other to help avoid and mitigate crashes. NHTSA concludes that, without a mandate, the market would not develop on its own, or at least not fast enough, because there would not be any benefit to early adopters.

"NHTSA believes that no single manufacturer would have the incentive to build vehicles able to "talk" to other vehicles, if there are no other vehicles to talk to - leading to likely market failure without the creation of a mandate to induce collective action," NHTSA said in the notice.

NHTSA signaled in February it planned to to take the step, but now the proposal is official.

It still has a boatload of questions it needs answering, which it asks in the ANPRM. Those include one whether the FCC is right about sharing and is implications for V2V.

Car manufacturers already share the band with cable Wi-Fi, a growing MSO mobile broadband play, but car manufacturers are now getting serious about intelligent transportation services (ITS) collision avoidance systems.

Now NHTSA is getting serious about how cars and cable will coexist if there is a mandate for V2V.

"The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has proposed the possibility of sharing the DSRC frequency of 5.9 GHz with other unlicensed devices. What are the possible ramifications of this sharing on current safety applications and future applications that may be developed?," the ANPRM asks. "If commenters believe that spectrum sharing in the 5.9 GHz frequency is feasible and will not interfere with V2V communications, can commenters provide research to support that belief? Please also share any research and evidence that there will be interference. If sharing is not possible, how might NHTSA evaluate opportunity cost associated with those forgone alternative uses of the spectrum? Because the sharing decision will not be made by NHTSA, need the agency evaluate that opportunity cost as part of its rulemaking?"

It also wants to know whether sharing, even if technically feasible, could impair the development of V2V. Cable ops have been arguing that sharing will continue to be viable under the ramped-up ITS services, while car makers are concerned about interference to car communications.

"How could spectrum sharing affect business interests and possible business approaches in relation to the deployment of the V2V technology?," NHTSA asks. "That is, if the FCC concludes that some spectrum sharing will not result in interference, will that decision discourage some investment in V2V and V2I technology implementation and delay the realization of certain benefits? If so, what kinds of business development would be deterred or delayed?"

NHTSA asks about privacy and security, with questions on the latter offering up some scary prospects reminiscent of sci-fi movie scenarios. "Do commenters believe that V2V could introduce the threat of remote code execution, i.e., that, among possible threat vectors, malicious code could be introduced remotely into a vehicle through the DSRC device and could create a threat to affected vehicles?," it asks. "If so, do commenters have or plan to develop information (research or data) on this potential." Then there is the question about whether there is the possibility of cyber-attacks "across the entire vehicle fleet..."

NHTSA also asks a question with wide applicability, and one being pondered by the FCC as it gooses the transition to wireless broadband and IP-based voice: "Does cellular technology have the low latency and security necessary for safety-critical communications?"

Commenters have 60 days to weigh in from the date the ANPRM publishes in the Federal Register.

Separately, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has proposed legislation instructing the FCC to allow sharing among Wi-Fi and V2V uses in the upper 5 GHz band, but with the caveat that Wi-Fi can't interfere with V2V, which is the licensed user but is only now becoming a potential widespread application.