FutureStructure

Proposed Legislation Would Let States Use Federal Funds for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Tech

The measure aims to ensure states can make the necessary investments to implement critical safety technologies, says U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.

by Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press / June 4, 2015
The technologies would allow for the wireless exchange of safety and operational information between vehicles and infrastructure around them. For instance, if ice had accumulated or a work zone was nearby, sensors attached to a road or bridge could notify drivers. Flickr/Ian Page-Echols

(TNS) -- U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan today said he has introduced legislation which could help promote and pay for technology which will someday give drivers and their vehicles infrastructure updates on safety conditions and traffic jams.

Peters, a Democrat, is sponsoring the measure along with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., which would allow states to use existing federal transportation funds doled out to programs for highway safety and certain other improvements for vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) projects.

U.S. Reps. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, and Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, had already introduced a companion bill in February in the U.S. House, where it awaits consideration by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of which Miller is a member. She is also expected to push it as part of a long-term highway funding bill.

"Connected vehicles and infrastructure are the next frontier of the American auto industry," Peters said, noting that much of the research into vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications is occurring in Michigan. "We must ensure that states can make the necessary investments to implement these critical safety technologies."

Considered the next step toward autonomous vehicles, the technologies would allow for the wireless exchange of safety and operational information between vehicles and other vehicles and infrastructure around them. For instance, if ice had accumulated or a work zone was nearby, sensors attached to a road or bridge could notify drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that V2V and V2I technology could someday eliminate up to 80% of the vehicle accidents involving non-impaired drivers each year in the U.S. and several organizations, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and others, have signed off in support of the bill.

Recent media reports, however, have raised concerns about whether another proposal, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., could hurt V2V technology by potentially requiring radio frequency reserved for it to use for Wi-Fi.

The senators said in a February release promoting the legislation that by forcing the Federal Communications Commission to test the feasibility of opening the bandwidth for wider use it could potentially "provide more of this valuable resource to ... bolster innovation, spur economic development and increase connectivity."

Speaking to CBS News in March, Booker said the legislation would "first and foremost" ensure the safety needs of the auto industry are met, but Peters and other V2V/V2I supporters are worried that the measure, if passed, could result in bandwidth reserved for vehicle safety going to other purposes.

The National Transportation Safety Board, too, has raised concerns about the possibility of sharing bandwidth spectrum previously allocated for collision avoidance systems.

The shared spectrum proposal "ignores the reality that millions and million have been invested in this technology," Peters said. "This is an incredibly important technology from a safety aspect."

©2015 the Detroit Free Press, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.