Suzanne Murtha

North America

Suzanne Murtha, senior program manager with Atkins in North America, has more than 17 years of experience in the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) and automotive industries. She has a significant background in ITS and advanced automotive technologies, including dedicated short range communications, connected vehicles, and emerging markets such as autonomous vehicles. Suzanne is also executive director for OmniAir Consortium, a Washington, DC, based trade association that advocates for the development and promotion of certification for the intelligent transportation industry.

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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).


North America,

I frequently read articles and heated commentary in the media related to connected and autonomous vehicles, but it’s not always clear that these are two distinct technologies. The terms are often used incorrectly, which creates misconceptions about one or the other—and this confusion can actually stall progress when implications are incorrectly applied where they do not belong.

So what’s the difference? Which one helps me get home faster by avoiding traffic congestion and which one helps me avoid auto-collisions?

Connected Vehicles (CVs)

Simply stated, connected vehicle technologies allow vehicles to communicate with each other and the world around them. Your vehicle is likely already more connected than you realize. Navigation systems already include connected vehicle functionality, such as dynamic route guidance. Your GPS-based system receives information on congestion in the road ahead through cellular signals (4G LTE or 3G) and suggests an alternative route.

The connected vehicle concept is about supplying useful information to a driver or a vehicle to help the driver make safer or more informed decisions. Use of a “connected vehicle” doesn’t imply that the vehicle is making any choices for the driver. Rather, it supplies information to the driver, including potentially dangerous situations to avoid.

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has been working on a CV program that communicates within a radio spectrum specifically allocated by the Federal Communications Commission in 1999 for this purpose. And by the end of this year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration will propose a rule mandating inclusion of 5.9 GHz-based equipment in all new vehicles to make them CV-ready. This technology has the potential to eliminate 80 percent of unimpaired crash scenarios that could save tens of thousands of lives each year.

Without compromising personal information, this technology will also enable transportation agencies to access vehicle data related to speed, location and trajectory—enabling better management of traffic flow as the ability to address specific problems in real-time. So in addition to sending information to the driver, CVs will send information to transportation agencies to enhance their knowledge of real-time road conditions, as well as generate historic data that will help agencies better plan and allocate future resources (which are typically stretched far too thin). By deploying roadside equipment, which reads and sends signals to and from these vehicles, transportation agencies can fully participate in the nationwide deployment of the connected vehicle system.

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs)

Some vehicles are already being deployed with autonomous functionality, such as self-parking or auto-collision avoidance features. But, until a vehicle can drive itself independently, it is not a true autonomous vehicle (AV). A fully autonomous vehicle does not require a human driver—rather, they are computer-driven. Most manufacturers will phase in various levels of autonomy until fully autonomous vehicles are widely tested and accepted by the general public.

Unlike connected vehicles, transportation agencies have little control over the deployment of these autonomous vehicles or the technology they use—this is controlled by the private sector companies who are building them, and responding to market forces. However, there are some actions agencies can do now to help encourage deployment of autonomous vehicles. For example, some agencies are already working to improve road striping and signage that will aid autonomous vehicles’ recognition of the road. Agencies can also encourage and support policies that will further AV deployment, such as certification policies, licensing rules, and following distance standards.

Autonomous vehicles do not need connected vehicle technology to function since they must be able to independently navigate the road network. However, CV technologies provide valuable information about the road ahead—allowing rerouting based on new information such as a lane closures or obstacles on the road. By incorporating CV technology, AVs will be safer, faster, and more efficient.

Furthermore, virtually all autonomous vehicles will require some form of connectivity to ensure software and data sets are current. As autonomous vehicles rely on knowing the roadway they are traveling on, changes to the roadside such as new development or construction will require the type of real-time exchange of information that CV technology provides.

While a complex task, transportation agencies need to be ready to support both connected and autonomous vehicles. By making the best use of technology, setting specific time frames for deployments, and addressing specific regional/geographic needs, we’re working to help our clients bring both connected and autonomous vehicles to the road.

The North America CAV report is available to access here (PDF).

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North America,

There are a variety of ways connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV’s) are currently being tested to advance their widespread progression to our roads. There are many parties involved—all playing a role in the process. The following testing methods are helping to ensure this technology will be highly functional in large-scale deployment environments.

Pilot Deployment Testing

Pilot programs provide the opportunity to test in less-than-ideal situations and real-world testing is key to understanding how to improve functionality. Testing is not always about working within a clean, ideal environment—most need to involve challenging environments that must be conquered.

On September 14, the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) announced its awards for connected vehicle pilot deployment programs will go to New York City, NY; Tampa, FL; and WY. These cities and regions will receive up to $42 million to pilot next-gen technology in infrastructure and connected vehicles. The US DOT is also planning to support deployments in other cities and regions throughout the country, which will lead to even more successful larger-scale deployments. We’ll be able to see how connected and autonomous vehicles function and interact in a multi-modal environment at many different speeds, surrounded by pedestrians, bicyclists and non-connected vehicles.

Closed Track Testing

On the other hand, closed track testing is valuable for testing in an ideal, clean environment. Simultaneous to pilot testing, many organizations are developing closed track testing facilities. Repurposed airports, military bases, and even greenfield facilities across the country are being developed into facilities for closed track testing in places like New Jersey, Texas, Florida, California, and Michigan. These facilities are especially important to understand how to improve automated (or driverless) vehicles. For example, poorly striped and signed roads are a particular challenge for driverless cars. Closed tracks in various regions provide testing across different climates and weather environments. Some tracks are even capable of simulating their own varied weather situations.

Most importantly, the closed track environment allows near real-world testing for safety-critical applications without risking impact to other road users. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) is currently developing testing standards which will help unify the various testing efforts, creating a common baseline of quality and safety.

Certification Testing

Certification testing measures and evaluates a particular aspect of a system’s performance using standardized metrics. A certification program may include one or several aspects of performance. For example, interoperability certification is currently specific to dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) testing. In the future, WiFi® and Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) testing may also be included in interoperability certification.

While all three are unique, these testing mechanisms have at least one thing in common—they all require input and cooperation of many involved parties. Pilot deployment testing involves input from dozens of stakeholders. Closed track testing involves engagement with users and standards developers. And certification testing involves engagement with equipment users, manufacturers, and test labs. This makes cooperation and collaborative partnerships perhaps the most critical component of improving and successfully deploying connected and autonomous vehicles.

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In the 1960’s, the concept of buying a car was simple. People grew up dreaming about the car they wanted. They saved for it and they bought it with cash. In the 1980’s, there was a shift in thinking. Consumers began to question the need to spend large amounts of cash for an asset they were going to use infrequently and keep for less than ten years. And so the concept of leasing was developed. Leasing meant not having to buy a vehicle outright, but still having the perks of ownership and access to a vehicle, which was a great solution for many drivers.

Leasing also worked out well for manufacturers, who in the early 2000’s began creating highly accurate models for evaluating residual value in used vehicles. The same companies that were once only focused on the efficient manufacturing of vehicles now began developing substantial financial and leasing branches. By the end of the 2000’s—with persuasive leasing agreements, certified used cars, and economic constraints—drivers no longer wanted to spend their money to own a new car.

In Cambridge, MA—just outside of Boston—Antje Danielson and Robin Chase launched Zipcar, the first car-sharing service. By 2005, the company had secured $10M in funding and had started a new industry. In urban areas, many people were now choosing not to participate in vehicle ownership or paying for parking, tolling, insurance, or gas and instead chose a car sharing option.

Today, owning a vehicle is not as important as it was in the 60’s. Applications for drivers’ licenses have declined, especially in urban areas. As demand for personal ownership has declined, demand for transportation and mobility services are increasing.

There are now many competitors to Zipcar, like City CarShare in the San Francisco Bay Area and I-GO in Chicago. Traditional rental car companies are also joining the market. Zipcar was acquired by AVIS, and Enterprise and Hertz have also initiated car-sharing services. But those joining the car-sharing market have faced an uphill climb in managing demand and the logistics involved in forecasting one-way trips. These obstacles have not been simple to overcome.

Even traditional vehicle manufacturing companies—Audi/VW, BMW, and Daimler—are joining the mix. While other manufacturers may also be pursing car-sharing services as a line of business, they have been less vocal about the pursuit.

Uber and Lyft have also made the news, developing a new model for mobility services and capitalizing on the high demand. Uber was most recently valued at $41B.

Atkins expects to see several new brands enter the mobility space over the next ten years and this includes companies offering mobility as a service. Most recently, there have been rumors about Apple and Virgin in the electric car space, and we’ve already witnessed Google’s autonomous vehicles.

All of these examples point to a dissipation of the importance of brand in traditional automotive manufacturing. This trend also opens an opportunity for untraditional partnering for services. With the growth of the Uber and Lyft comes the distinct possibility of smaller international automobile manufacturers successfully selling to the US market. Previously Chinese, Indian, or other non-traditional manufacturers would have an uphill battle selling directly to US consumers. But new approaches, such as selling their vehicles through services similar to Uber or Lyft, may be feasible—offering lower prices for mobility services instead of ownership.

While enthusiasts will likely continue to supply a steady demand for high-end vehicles, Atkins forecasts a shift away from the importance of branding at the middle to lower-levels. We believe the consistent, decreasing demand for ownership and the many new brands entering the market will create a new focus on those that offer mobility as a service.

For more information on MaaS, you can download a new white paper, Journeys of the Future, written by the UK Transportation’s intelligent mobility team at Atkins here.

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North America,

Until recently, a world where vehicles help drivers make informed decisions, and even drive themselves, existed in the distant future. However, advanced transportation technologies and policies are being implemented today that will take effect within the next few years. To realize the opportunities offered by the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles, agencies must prepare for their arrival right now.

Connected vehicles

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is currently pursuing a mandate to require installation of 5.9 GHz devices in new vehicles to establish standard communications capability and enable data sharing with other vehicles and roadway devices. The federal government is expected to implement this mandate by January 2017, and General Motors has already announced that its 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan (on sale in Fall 2016) will be equipped with compatible vehicle-to-vehicle technology.

As vehicles begin communicating or “connecting” directly with other vehicles and roadways, an enormous amount of real-time, dynamic data will be produced and available to agencies. Moreover, it’s expected to be the largest amount of data ever produced from a single source throughout human history. This will pose a significant data management challenge requiring considerable planning. This will also offer an exciting opportunity for better roadway management, increased throughput, and decreased costs to agencies for incident response.

Once implemented, these initiatives are expected to have a significant impact on crash-based fatalities through collision avoidance at intersections and accidental lane departures. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 80 percent of unimpaired crash scenarios could be eliminated, saving thousands of lives each year.

In addition, traffic reduction measures, such as improved signal coordination, could help address environmental and mobility concerns.

Autonomous vehicles

Simultaneous to the development of connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles are taking shape and following two development paths—autonomous vehicles connected to roadway infrastructure, and non-connected autonomous vehicles that are independent of infrastructure. Connected autonomous vehicles will take messages from roadside units and from other vehicles to help make decisions for the vehicle. Non-connected autonomous vehicles will make those decisions based on information from maps, on-board equipment, and connectivity through 4G or LTE (cellular-based connections).

Early studies show that autonomous vehicles will significantly decrease following distance through platooning (i.e., vehicle groups traveling close together), reducing safe following distance to inches rather than feet and making safer driving decisions than human drivers. Self-parking vehicles will also require less space to maneuver, reducing parking space needs.

Realizing the opportunities

To support deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles, agencies need to plan for the associated infrastructure required (fiber-optic and supporting networks, traffic management center equipment, and roadside equipment), address staffing needs, and consider data management and privacy concerns. Connected vehicle systems using Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) are specifically designed to protect privacy by not associating data with any particular vehicle or driver; however, privacy advocates are already raising objections. Agencies need to be ready to effectively communicate privacy details and policies.

Atkins has been working with the federal government for more than a decade on the development of connected and autonomous vehicles and is excited to lend our expertise to deploying the technology. We’ve been involved in designing and troubleshooting equipment and networks for local deployments of DSRC at facilities such as the San Francisco Airport and the original test bed in Novi, MI, and we’re planning several connected vehicle deployments for various agencies throughout the country.

Atkins has also contributed to the development standards for DSRC roadside equipment and system performance, and we’re working with U.S. Department of Transportation to develop standard approaches for deployment of local connected vehicle systems.

As we prepare for deployment of this technology — moving us light-years ahead in terms of safety, ease, and reduction of carbon-producing traffic — careful planning and collaboration with experienced teams, as well as effective communications with stakeholders are key to realizing its full potential.

And as my colleague Lee Woodcock has already written, this will involve working collaboratively between the public sector, private sector and academia.

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North America,