One Step Closer to Autonomous cars?

Peter Els

For decades, the focus of vehicle safety was on passive protection but with the introduction of the modern Anti-lock Braking System in the 1970’s a new dimension in vehicle safety was born; namely active safety, in which accident avoidance is paramount.

Marking a new milestone in active safety the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on February 3rd 2014 that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles: By so doing, DOT hopes to significantly reduce the more than 30,000 vehicle deaths each year.
In the 20 years leading up to this announcement, efforts of DOT and the automobile industry have focused on developing:

• In-vehicle components to facilitate V2V communication
• Safety software applications to analyze data and identify potential collisions
• Vehicle features that warn drivers
• A national communication security system to ensure trust in the data transmitted between vehicles

These technologies were tested in the real world during an extensive Safety Pilot Model Deployment trial, launched in August 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) led trial involved nearly 3,000 vehicles, which covered more than 9.7 million km and recorded over 37,500 V2V interactions. After a successful conclusion in early 2014 a detailed report is eagerly awaited by all interested parties.

V2V implementation across the globe

While V2V implementation in America is not expected before 2018, in Europe the CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium (C2C-CC) has issued a MoU signed by several major vehicle OEMs including Audi, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Man, Opel, PSA, Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo; committing to deploying the pan-European standard Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems by 2015.

With the roll-out of V2V, market intelligence company ABI Research, predicts Global V2V penetration will increase from just over 10% in 2018 to 70% in 2027, with the EU, US, and Japan accounting for most of the growth.

Obviously for successful implementation of V2V a stable, reliable communication technology is vital. For this reason dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) using the 5.9GHz frequency range has been selected.

Dedicated short-range communications to enable secure V2V
SAE International has worked closely with the US government and global industry on the development of vehicle communication specifications for more than 20 years, resulting in the publication of multiple standards and recommended practices.

A new version of the SAE International standard, J2735 "Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) Message Set Dictionary, is being finalized to support the 3-regions’ (USA, Europe, Japan) common message format. This will be followed by SAE J2945 Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) Minimum Performance Requirements.

In Europe, based on 802.11p (alternatively known as Wireless LAN), the C2C-CC has briefly laid out its vision for V2V and V2I (Vehicle to Infrastructure) communication as follows:

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As soon as two or more vehicles or ITS stations are in radio communication range, they connect automatically and establish an ad hoc network where all ITS stations know the position, speed and direction of the other stations and will be able to provide warnings and information.
As the range of a single wireless LAN link is limited to a few hundred meters, every vehicle also acts as a router allowing messages to "multi-hop" to vehicles and ITS stations that are not in the immediate vicinity.

The integrity of the communication technology and carrier is vital to the safe implementation of V2X, which is why the 5.9GHz frequency range was allocated. However in America it’s not clear whether the US Federal Communications Commission will permit other uses of the spectrum, raising concerns about interference.
Taking a longer term view of V2X, it’s quite possible that several communications technologies will be used to carry out a variety of functions; not merely V2X driver warning.

In this scenario it’s quite likely that a mobile technology, such as LTE-Advanced could be used for info-tainment, while DSRC forms the backbone of driver alert V2X communications.

Challenges facing V2V implementation

Against this backdrop of technological uncertainty and evolution, governments and the automotive industry face a complex challenge: Whilst guaranteeing safe and sustainable transportation, they also have a responsibility in advancing the implementation of ITS and V2V through spectrum allocation, standardization, certification, international cooperation and cross-border compatibility, with minimum service definition.
Aimed at offering a flexible, multi-platform solution to this complexity, NXP Semiconductors released the SAF5100 in October 2013. The SAF5100 was developed to be a flexible software-defined radio processor for car-to-car (C2C) and car-to-infrastructure (C2I) communication.

Scheduled for series production in the second half of 2014, the processor successfully completed C2X field trials such as the simTD trial in Germany; the recently completed Safety Pilot Model Deployment trial; and the SCORE@F trial in France.

The processor supports multiple wireless standards as well as different OEM antenna configurations, thereby catering for 802.11p antenna diversity. This provides OEMs with the flexibility to support emerging standards across multiple regions via firmware updates. It also provides best-in-class wireless link performance via the 802.11p firmware from Cohda Wireless, which is a fully integrated part of the device.

Although V2V technology does not involve exchanging or recording personal information or tracking vehicle movements there are public privacy concerns that need to be addressed.

If V2X is viewed in isolation this would certainly appear to be a secure technology. However in the modern motor vehicle most systems are linked via Can, Flex-Ray, LAN or some other form of technology. It is not unperceivable that personal data could be retrieved through intercepting, for example, a mobile phone data transmission.

To guarantee protection, Cisco Systems and auto components maker Continental believe each car should have security and access permissions of a self-contained enterprise network: Meaning every incoming and outgoing communication should be monitored and managed the same way an IT department walls off a corporate network from the outside world. In the V2V environment where split second response to inputs around the vehicle is required this may be difficult to implement.

When a monetary value is attached to traffic disruptions and accidents, there’s no doubt that V2V and V2I communication will benefit motorists across the globe. According to Cisco Sytems, annual Global traffic disruption accounts for:

• A loss of $1 trillion, or two percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP)
• Eight million traffic accidents which cost 1.3 million lives and injure more than seven million people
• 90 billion hours lost in traffic jams, generating 220 million metric tons of carbon equivalent

However several organisations are questioning the wisdom of DOT opting for a V2V communication system that only warns the driver, whilst apparently disregarding the trend towards autonomous vehicles; even making no reference to existing autonomous/ active systems such as those already found in series production.

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If it is merely intended as a V2V alert for the driver then further questions need to be raised:

If a V2V equipped vehicle is involved in an accident; who is liable? The driver for not heeding the warning? The OEM who sold the vehicle? Possibly the other vehicle wasn’t V2V equipped, in which case how effective is the technology until a critical user mass is reached?

Maybe the final solution lies in Autonomous technology, and this is merely one of the enabling technologies along the way?


  • RT Question more - Cars that speak to one another? Tech on the way, but privacy concerns remain
  • CATO Institute - VMT Fees Yes; V2V No (Randal O'Toole)
  • CISCO - Smart Connected Vehicles
  • ABI Research - Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications adoption to reach 70% in 2027
  • C2C CC - The mission and objectives of the CAR 2 CAR Communication Consortium
  • US Government Accountability office - Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Telematics update - Telematics and V2V: Costs versus benefits (Susan Kuchinskas)

Peter Els is a technical writer for Automotive IQ

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