After years of promoting vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, the U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration appears poised to mandate the safety technology. Many in the industry have been waiting for a NHTSA regulation, but there’s still concern about security issues and competition from 5G cellular links.
The proposed rule announcement makes it likely that V2V communications will be required on new light duty vehicles beginning sometime early in the next decade. NHTSA and many leading OEMs and Tier 1s have worked for more than a decade to develop V2V, saying that it can reduce accidents and congestion.
When cars send messages about their location and speed, accidents can be decreased by as much as 80%, NHTSA said. Proponents say communication also enables truck platooning/caravanning on the highway with the potential to save fuel while also reducing congestion. The speed of dedicated short range communication (DSRC) technologies is a key factor.
“Latency with V2V is very important,” said Patrick Morgan, General Manager for ADAS at NXP. “It lets you platoon, putting only one half second between vehicles. That has advantages for fuel consumption, vehicles draft off each other. It also increases driver uptime.”
While V2V may be required, its role may be in question. While most cars already have some form of cellular connectivity, it will take years before the fleet of V2V-equipped cars will reach 50% penetration. Many companies are exploring ways that cellular communications can provide many of the safety benefits of V2V, saving the cost of dedicated DSRC transceivers. That may slow the rollout of V2V until it’s legally required.
“Out of the blocks, V2V costs will be around $300 per car,” said Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics. “That’s a lot for something that has no value proposition until a few years down the road. GM announced its plans to put it on the 2017 Cadillac CTS a while ago, but nobody followed suit. That tells you everybody is likely to wait until the mandate forces them to put DSRC on cars.”
Security, already a complex issue for vehicle makers, is also a challenge for V2V. Developers plan to use V2V signals to brake or steer to avoid accidents, so it’s critical that hackers can’t send erroneous communications. Safety planners envision systems that tell cars f to slam on their brakes after receiving a V2V signals when a car hidden in front of the semi executes a hard stop.
NHTSA has addressed security, but not at the depth that many feel is needed.
"What is currently lacking is any meaningful baseline metric to help gauge the potential security risks associated with V2V communications,” said Mike Ahmadi, Global Director for Critical Systems Security at Synopsys Software Integrity Group. “The (NHTSA) document speaks of identifying ‘credible’ security threats, but does not go into any detail on what a credible threat is. Moreover, while identifying potential threats is a useful endeavor, identifying vulnerabilities and mitigating them can leave many threats innocuous."
Though there are many questions about the pending rollout of V2V, experts feel that it has enough momentum to overcome those concerns. V2V has been in development for years, while comparatively little design has been done for safety systems based on cellular technology.
Many discussions of cellular safety are based on 5G, a low latency cellular technology that is still being developed. However, the costs of DSRC-based communications will be equalized by the mandate, so it may be more cost effective to stick with the infrastructure that’s been built up around V2V.
“V2V is not at all trivial; this is something that’s been worked on for more than 12 years, $700 to $800 million has been spent to develop this solution,” Lanctot said. “If NHTSA did not go forward with this, there would be substantial layoffs.”