While U.S. regulators were preparing the first policy guidance on autonomous-vehicle testing and development, released Sept. 20, OEMs were discussing whether they can achieve broad usage of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies without regulations. Meanwhile the industry continues to debate the role of governmental agencies in autonomous vehicles and connected cars.
In panel sessions at the NXP Freescale Technology Forum in June, speakers addressed different aspects of regulations and legislation for autonomous vehicles. Some states won’t allow testing of driverless vehicles, and most won’t allow unattended driving. Many panelists expressed hope that the NHTSA or the Dept. of Transportation would create national rules for autonomous cars.
“In the short term, there will probably be different rules for different states,” said John Bozella, CEO of Global Automakers, a consortium of OEMs. “I’m hopeful that will disappear in the long term. There’s a role for states, but it is not to set characteristics for vehicles. One reason for having NHTSA is to set rules that permit interstate commerce.”
A "huge data problem"
NHTSA’s role in V2X is equally important. Panelists noted that GM is introducing the technology on the 2017 Cadillac CT6, but there’s concern that few will add the expense of dedicated short range communications (DSRC) until government mandates level the playing field. Proponents say that DSRC’s ability to provide non-line of sight input will improve safety and help autonomous vehicles evolve.
Speakers also touted its potential cost-saving capabilities, for example replacing costly under-road magnetic sensors used to adjust stoplight times to improve traffic flow. DSRC signals provide real time information on traffic conditions.
“The infrastructure under the road won’t be needed any more,” said Andrew Turley, Director of V2X Business Development at NXP. “Managers can do more with the information, sending more information to the driver and gathering data on congestion, for example.”
While some panelists at the NXP event said that V2X will eventually be needed by autonomous cars, that wasn’t a unanimous opinion. One factor is that managing the data created when every car in rush hour traffic is sending speed and location data.
“I’ve evolved to think that it’s no longer a have-to-have,” said Gary Silberg, National Automotive Leader at KPMG LLP. “There’s a huge data problem, looking at what information will go back and forth and determining what’s useful and what’s not.”
There’s also concern that 5G cellular signals will take over part or possibly all the tasks now expected for V2X. 5G will provide the bandwidth and possibly the low latency needed for communications. However, proponents note that while the architecture for DSRC is well-established, there’s been little work to create a similar automotive grade architecture for cellular.
“With 5G you can do 1 millisecond latency, but the auto industry has worked on DSRC for years. It’s the best way to send short messages” said Guarav Bansai, Senior Researcher at Toyota Info Technology Center.
While governmental input may be required for V2X and autonomous driving, panelists who discussed cyber security largely agreed that legislative involvement is not desirable. Referencing Apple’s battle with the FBI over so-called "back doors," attendees asked whether automakers should provide back doors to allow police and others to access data. Panelists downplayed the need for governmental agencies to force security rulings on the industry.
“Basically, government should not be involved unless we don’t act,” said John Krzeszewski, Cybersecurity Engineering Technical Lead at Delphi Electronics. “Back doors are not a good practice, you’re never sure a back door will only accessed by good guys.”
Balancing privacy and safety can be a difficult challenge given the myriad issues surrounding connectivity and autonomy. In the future, there may be instances when personal safety may hinge on access to data on a vehicle.
“There may be cases where access to systems should be provided to first responders,” said Marc Rogers, Principal Security Researcher at Cloudfare.
“The reality is there’s no such thing as a secure back door, but that doesn’t mean you can’t design a system to provide the right information,” he said.