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V2V traffic communication
This artist’s concept shows how vehicles could communitcate using V2V. (USDOT Illustration)

The U.S. Department of Transportation today laid out its proposal for enabling cars and light trucks to connect to each other wirelessly. The technology, known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications or V2V, is expected to speed up the push toward autonomous vehicles.

The department said the system could prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes every year.

“We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential of transportation technology to save lives,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “This long-promised V2V rule is the next step in that progression.  Once deployed, V2V will provide 360-degree situational awareness on the road and will help us enhance vehicle safety.”

The proposed rule would require automakers to include V2V technologies in all new light-duty vehicles, and require them to “speak the same language” through a standardized wireless messaging system developed in cooperation with the auto industry.

V2V devices would use dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC, to transmit data about location, direction and speed to vehicles within about 1,000 feet. The data would be updated and broadcast up to 10 times a second. Using that information, V2V-equipped vehicles can identify risks and provide warnings to avoid imminent crashes.

The technology could come into play for driving functions such as collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control, and provide warnings about tricky maneuvers such as two-lane passing and turns into oncoming traffic. A fully realized V2V safety system could have headed off the widely publicized collision that killed a Tesla Autopilot driver in May.

One oft-mentioned application for V2V is “platooning,” which involves linking multiple cars or trucks together wirelessly for highway travel at a uniform speed, increasing traffic efficiency in the process.

The Transportation Department said its proposed rule calls for extensive privacy and security controls in any V2V device. But Public Knowledge, an advocacy group focusing on communication issues, took issue with that claim.

In a statement, Public Knowledge policy fellow John Gasparini said the department’s proposed set of rules “does not examine the grave threat posed by connecting secure DSRC technology to the demonstrably insecure modern car.”

Another point yet to be resolved is whether the 5.9 GHz radio spectrum, which was set aside for V2V use years ago, can be opened up for Wi-Fi use as well. Doing so would complicate the questions about privacy and security.

The notice of proposed rulemaking will be open for public comment for 90 days. The department is expected to issue a final rule after taking the feedback into account.

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