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DSRC deployment – The chicken and the egg

Suzanne Murtha | 30 Mar 2017 | Comments

Earlier this year, NHTSA announced that it is undertaking the process to make a rule requiring new light vehicles to have DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication), which would allow communications to, from and between vehicles to enable the reduction of roughly 80 percent of non-impaired crashes.

This NPRM is US DOT’s effort at solving the 20-year-old chicken and egg problem. Who deploys first? Why would the IOO (Infrastructure Owners and Operators) invest in infrastructure to support communications if no vehicles have it?

Now, the vehicles will have it.

The rule requires that, beginning two years after issuance of a final rule, DSRC would be phased in over the following three years, at rates of 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent, respectively. According to NHTSA estimates, with this requirement in place, around 2040 we’ll have DSRC installed in 90 percent of new vehicles. Independent analysis of the market penetration agrees with the NPRM analysis.

If that news weren’t exciting enough, we now see not only GM announcing DSRC-based equipment in the CTS (announced September 2014), but now also in the 2018 XTS and ATS. Insiders tell us that several other automotive manufacturers are close behind with DSRC announcements.

While the NPRM does a detailed analysis of potential back office management of connected vehicle systems, as well as a highly detailed explanation of privacy and security (the document is nearly 400 pages long), NHTSA’s purview is somewhat limited with regard to the aftermarket. NHTSA can only require DSRC on new vehicles and this opens an opportunity, too, for IOO to encourage aftermarket adoption of DSRC on existing vehicles at a local level as well as deploy supporting infrastructure at a pace that makes sense for them.

Enter the egg.

Infrastructure Owners and Operators
To support the deployment of DSRC-based equipment to improve safety and mobility, US DOT also invested in three major deployments in New York City, Wyoming and Tampa. Recent US DOT fact sheets about the deployments list over 500 DSRC roadside units being deployed to support nearly 10,000 DSRC On Board Units (OBU).

The V2I Deployment Coalition has recently issued the DSRC 20x20 SPaT Challenge. Infrastructure influencers AASHTO, ITS America and ITE have teamed up with US DOT’s FHWA to encourage—challenge—IOOs across the country to install DSRC-based equipment at 20 intersections by 2020. Many cities, regions and states are jumping on this opportunity. In addition to the hundreds of existing DSRC installations, dozens of other IOOs will be deploying DSRC in the coming months.

Now, the infrastructure will have it. 

The momentum behind the DSRC continues to be remarkable. There are nearly 70 comments in the proposed rule as of today, final comments are due April 12. As of today, the bulk of these comments are specifically related to concerns about radio frequency and health. While a few comments concern other types of radio communication, the bulk of the comments are supportive and many more supportive comments are expected in the coming days.

The automotive manufacturers (OEMs) have asked the new administration for rollback of several regulations including CAFE requirements and automated vehicle policy. However, the OEMs have not asked for consideration of the DSRC NPRM and have continued full steam ahead with work to further develop DSRC-based communications. I suspect we’ll be able to view the specifically supportive comments on the NHTSA docket in the coming weeks.

So What?

  • Respond to NHTSA! You have until April 12 to tell US DOT your agency’s thoughts about vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communications using DSRC.
  • As an IOO, the advent of DSRC means that you will have access to specific vehicle data, at an increasing rate beginning now.
  • If you would like to increase your access to this data, deploy DSRC equipment at a pace that makes sense for your agency.
  • As an IOO, you are not under a mandate to deploy anything.  Deploy at your pace, prioritizing locations that could enhance safety or need the most attention.
  • Incrementally learn how to manage CV data and deploy within the CVRIA (US DOT Connected Vehicle Reference Implementation Architecture).