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If Cars Could Talk: Feds Propose Vehicle Communication Standards

In citing the enormous potential for saving human lives, the U.S. Department of Transportation is opening up the floor to public comment on a rule mandating new vehicles be outfitted with vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology.

On Dec. 13, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a proposed rule in order to widely deploy vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication in all light-duty vehicles.

V2V communication essentially allows cars to speak to one another, giving vehicles an advanced crash avoidance warning. The proposed rule would require vehicle manufacturers to include V2V capabilities that are able to “speak the same language” through standardized messaging, which the industry will soon develop. Vehicles would essentially be able to communicate with each other, warning drivers of oncoming accidents.

“We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential of transportation technology to save lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release. “Once deployed, V2V will provide 360-degree situational awareness on the road and will help us enhance vehicle safety.”

The V2V devices would use the dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), a radio-based method of connection protected by the Federal Communications Commission, to transmit such data as location, direction and speed to nearby vehicles. Vehicles would be able to broadcast data up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles.

The DOT has been looking into V2V communication technologies since 2014 when it issued an advanced notice of proposed rule-making. The agency paired the notice with a comprehensive research report on V2V communications technology.

The release also acknowledged that soon, the agency plans to "issue guidance for vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.” This type of communication would allow vehicles on the road to talk to connected streetlights or stop signs in order to improve mobility by reducing congestion and creating safer environments for road workers.

By mandating communication technology between vehicles and infrastructure, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates up to 80 percent of non-impaired accidents could be eliminated.

The release also specifies that data shared between vehicles will not include any individual information, and the rule "would require extensive privacy and security controls.”

Now that the notice has been issued, a 90-day public comment period is open to industry and government officials to voice their opinions on the rule's structure and substance.

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.