During the long development of vehicle-to-vehicle/-infrastructure communications, collectively referred to as V2X, design teams looked at many ways to cover costs by using the signals for other tasks. But the long wait for a government mandate requiring V2X has reduced the options, leaving advertising as one of the few potential ways to impact costs.
A U.S. NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) study predicted that V2V equipment and supporting communications functions such as security management would cost approximately $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020. Whether the safety benefits offset these costs is one of many questions facing the agency as it nears a decision in 2016 on whether or not to require V2X on all vehicles.
The automakers who may have to design these modules into vehicles are exploring ways to use the technology in different ways to amortize costs. The main role of 5.9-GHz dedicated short range communications (DSRC), the U.S. technology for V2X, is to send signals that will alert vehicles that another car is a potential threat.
Even though a mandate would put V2X on par with seat belts and airbags, strategists have explored ways to amortize or reduce costs. V2X modules were once viewed as a free communications link for firmware over-the-air updates, real-time traffic monitoring, and other tasks. But when no regulations were issued, cellular technology began filling these roles.
“If there’s an alert for a traffic jam two miles ahead, why not use cellular?” said John Capp, Director, Global Vehicle Safety at General Motors. “For more immediate safety messages, DSRC is definitely the way to go.”
As cellular chipped away at the applications base, it also knocked down the idea that V2X costs could be justified even without a mandate. Neither automakers nor car buyers are likely to invest in a technology that won’t be useful until a large number of vehicles can talk to each other.
“DSRC will be free, but companies will have to invest in hardware,” said Erik Coelingh, Senior Technical Leader, Safety Electronics & Functions at Volvo. “It’s always difficult for customer number one to pay for something without gaining any benefit from it.”
Some observers feel that advertising may be sent to vehicles to help offset some of the cost. That’s especially true for vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, which will require roadside beacons. DSRC data may also be sent to data-processing centers. Ads could help pay for these installations.
“Many models rely on some form of advertising,” said Joe Averkamp, Senior Director, Technology, Policy & Strategy, at Xerox. “You need to make sure it’s subtle and not distracting.”
DSRC has multiple channels, so it’s possible that one could be used to send localized ads or other information. That will depend on how bands are allocated.
“Advertising questions are still unresolved,” said Mike Shulman, Ford’s Global Driver Assistance and Active Safety Manager. “Seven DSRC channels have been allocated. Safety messages will go on one channel, things like traffic-light communications could go on another. An ad message channel has not been defined.”
Some managers feel that advertisers will build an alternative infrastructure in the years before regulators mandate V2X and automakers start shipping equipped vehicles.
“There are other ways to do advertising that can happen sooner and are possibly less costly,” Capp said.