Connectivity is the Key to Safety for Automated Vehicles
For those in our industry who have been laboring for years to develop and refine DSRC-based Connected Vehicle technologies, the recent enthusiasm for Automated Vehicles has proved vexing. Hardly a day goes by when we read another article or listen to testimony in Congress about the “life-saving benefits” of Automated Vehicles, with little mention of the well-documented and thoroughly demonstrated safety benefits of connectivity.
In last week’s hearing on automated vehicles, no less than the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senator Thune (R-SD), remarked that “self-driving vehicle technology will have a transformational impact on highway safety.” Senator Peters (R-MI), added: “Self-driving vehicles will not only dramatically change how we get from place to place, they have the potential to prevent accidents and save thousands of lives.”
No doubt, self-driving vehicles hold great promise. We are all familiar with the oft-quoted statistic, that over 94% of all crashes are attributable to human error. Proponents of V2V have often argued the same.
It would seem, then, only logical that fully-automated automobiles, which remove all human control, would be the safest of all. But what if advocates for automated vehicles, the tech press, and innumerable marketing departments have over-stated the case? What if all of the technologies in a self-contained automobile are simply not enough to ensure the safety of passengers and pedestrians?
Yesterday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published a report on the deadly crash in 2016 involving a Tesla Model S and the driver’s use of semi-automated vehicle control systems. The 500+ page report raises questions about how drivers will be able to safely interact with varying levels of vehicle automation.
Particularly disappointing was an article published last week by the libertarian think tank, the Niskanen Center, which takes dead aim at DSRC, noting its opposition to NHTSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications.
While there may be reasonable differences of opinion on NHTSA’s proposed rule, which OmniAir strongly supports, the author of that article seems to make the argument that DSRC is somehow unnecessary for successful deployment of Automated Vehicles. I could not disagree more.
DSRC-based V2X technologies provide an important additional safety layer, transmitting basic safety messages from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure. DSRC can broadcast signals up to 300 meters, providing an essential “third eye” to self-driving cars. The fact that these signals broadcast through walls and around corners augment the line of sight capabilities of cameras, LiDAR, radar, and other technologies used by autonomous vehicles.
Most importantly, DSRC-based V2X is ready for national deployment – now. After some two decades of research, testing, and small-scale deployment programs, there is a clear consensus supporting V2X DSRC among government (federal and state), vehicle OEMs, device manufacturers, and researchers.
Key national standards for V2V DSRC, such as SAE J2735 and SAE J2945/1, determined through a consensus-based process, are in place. OmniAir is preparing to launch a certification program to provide critical conformance and interoperability certification. The Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot in Ann Arbor, Michigan proved the viability of V2V and V2I safety applications in real-world conditions. DSRC has answered key technical, policy, and institutional issues.
I am excited about the future vision of driverless cars and shared mobility. Like many of you, I will be attending the next month’s AUVSI/TRB Symposium on Automated Vehicles in San Francisco to better understand how this future is quickly becoming a reality.
However, as policymakers begin to set rules for vehicle automation, they would do well to make use of existing, market-ready safety technologies that will improve the safety of self-driving cars. Vehicle connectivity provides an essential additional safety layer for self-driving cars. Let’s start using it to save lives–now.
OmniAir Consortium is the leading industry association promoting interoperability and certification for connected vehicles, ITS, and transportation payment systems. To learn more about OmniAir, visit our website at www.omniair.org
Jason M. Conley
Executive Director, OmniAir Consortium