The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t yet issued a mandate for dedicated short range communications (DSRC), but many companies are planning for the eventual adoption of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. On the infrastructure side, Xerox is eyeing DSRC as a potential standard for many tasks such as tolling and commercial vehicle monitoring.
NHTSA is continuing to research DSRC because it can have a big impact on safety. The agency appears bullish on its potential, though no requirements have been set. Companies like Xerox feel there’s a high likelihood that the technology can be used for many additional functions.
“We’re looking at DSRC’s potential if NHTSA requires it in all cars,” said Joe Averkamp, Senior Director, Technology, Policy & Strategy, at Xerox. “It could be used as a payment device for tolling. If it’s used, it could become a national standard, which means the transponder inventory will go away.”
Xerox hopes to expand its infrastructure services in automotive, which grew substantially when it acquired Affiliated Computer Services in 2010. The company manages tolling operations and vehicle monitoring systems in several states. Xerox also manages a public-private partnership that spans 32 states trucking companies with around 500,000 drivers.
The company has partnered with the University of Michigan Mobility Transformation Center to participate in studies that are beginning with a simulated city before eventually expanding to 20,000 vehicles. Those trials will help companies figure out issues including security and privacy.
“In the safety world, vehicles need to be anonymous,” Averkamp said. “When it comes to tolling, drivers are subscribers we’ll need to manage that bifurcated identity environment.”
Many companies are examining DSRC’s potential for providing additional features and functions. That would help companies amortize the cost of adding the technology while also generating more customer interest. However, these additional features can’t detract from DSRC’s primary goal.
“The first rule is that nothing can interfere with safety communications,” Averkamp said. “Once the technology is put into the car, you might as well leverage it to give the driver a better experience, maybe by finding a parking space, which also helps reduce congestion. You can also provide in-vehicle signage, telling someone that driving time to Maryland is 20 minutes for free but paying to use the high occupancy vehicle lane costs $3 and cuts the time to 10 minutes, for example.”
While DSRC may displace some technologies, it will be just one the wireless communication protocols used in future vehicles. Bluetooth will be used inside the cabin, while cellular links like LTE will handle long-range communications and large amounts of data.