Current State of Autonomous and Connected Vehicles

by Dickinson Wright
Contact

Dickinson Wright

All manner of news reports about autonomous vehicle (AV) and connected vehicle technologies have become ubiquitous. Reports about Silicon Valley upstarts Uber, Tesla and Waymo draw particular attention, some favorable (Waymo - millions of miles of on-road experience), some not (Tesla and Uber - accidents). The amount of detailed information can result in overload. It can also obscure the big picture of the current landscape for implementation of these technologies. What is the prospect that those technologies will be available to the public anytime soon so that their benefits can be realized? The answer appears to be that the landscape varies depending on the technology and your level of optimism.

Federal Guidance on Autonomous Vehicles.

The AV industry is currently, or not, operating under Guidance issued by NHTSA, for the safe development of AV technologies. The Guidance is an interim stand-in for autonomous vehicle safety standards that have yet to be written. It “encourages” the industry to publish, before testing and deployment of their technologies, safety assessment reports or letters that describe how they considered 12 safety elements during the design and development of their products. Compliance with the Guidance is voluntary. In fact, when NHTSA issued its most recent Guidance (“A Vision for Safety”), it expressly considered these reports to be promotional materials for AV manufacturers to “showcase their approach to safety.” NHTSA also expressed that the intended audience for the reports was States and consumers, not NHTSA. To date, two companies, GM and Waymo, have published safety assessments. Both contain detailed explanations of their respective intensive development processes. Nonetheless, they are only descriptions of their processes accompanied by conclusions about performance.

Clearly, the existence of “voluntary” guidance will facilitate the development and deployment of AV technologies. Being voluntary, it creates no barriers and it obviates an immediate need for developing AV safety standards. Also, NHTSA is in the process of identifying other barriers it can help remove. NHTSA has essentially stepped out of industry’s way.

Proposed AV Start Legislation.

The House and Senate have proposed similar legislation to get AV technologies on the road sooner rather than later. Addressing the lack of existing AV standards, the Senate version essentially codifies the requirements of the NHTSA Guidance. It requires the submission of the reports but prohibits NHTSA from “conditioning” testing or sale of AVs on “a review” of the contents of the reports by NHTSA.
Addressing the current statutory prohibition of selling vehicles that don’t comply with FMVSS (which many AVs do not), it increases the number of exemptions that NHTSA can issue to permit the sale of non-compliant AVs (that manufacturers can demonstrate are at least as safe as vehicles that do comply) from 2500 to up to 100,000.

Addressing regulatory barriers to AV development and deployment, it proposes to clean up existing regulations that AVs cannot comply with as written to accommodate AVs and it establishes a road map for developing new safety standards for AV technologies.

This legislation has stalled in the senate over concerns that the technology has yet to be proven safe and reliable and that the legislation does not do enough to protect vehicle owners or the public. The legislation had stalled before the most recent reports of fatalities associated with AV technologies. These incidents will reinforce the concern of opponents of the legislation. Whether and how quickly the current version of the legislation becomes law is an open question. So too is whether the legislation will be changed, and if so, how.

Proposed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 150 – Connected Vehicle Communications

This proposed FMVSS would essentially require the phase-in of Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) units into new passenger vehicles. These communication devices will permit V2V and eventually V2I communications. In the V2V context, they would transmit a basic safety message containing information about the vehicle’s speed, heading, brake status and the like to other vehicles. It would allow a vehicle that receives such messages to know about potential impacts with other vehicles before the vehicle’s onboard sensors, cameras and LIDAR can see or detect the other vehicle. Once received, the vehicle can either warn the driver or, if autonomous, automatically take steps to avoid an impact thus enhancing the vehicle’s autonomous capabilities. The industry has been developing and proving out these devices for 20 years. No other technology currently meets the performance requirements necessary for these communications.

NHTSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for this standard in January 2017. Comments from stakeholders and the public were received through April. Thereafter, the proposal seemingly disappeared into the ether. A report surfaced in late October that the current administration had killed the proposal. On November 8, 2017, the DOT responded that a final decision had not yet been made and that the rule was still under consideration. If true then, it may not be now. The DOT’s “Strategic Plan for FY 2108-2022” (February 2018) does contain one mention of “connected ….. vehicles,” but, that specific reference is seemingly diluted but the DOT’s later coining of a new acronym - “AV & RT” (Autonomous Vehicles and Related Technologies). Moreover, while the acronym “V2I” is defined in a list at the end of the Plan, it appears nowhere in the body of the Plan.

If the current administration shelves the standard, V2V and V2I communication will be delayed for some time. This technology is only effective if every vehicle has it. If only two out of every hundred vehicles has the technology, little or no safety benefit will be realized. That is why NHTSA wanted to mandate that all car companies begin installing the technology. Voluntary adoption of the technology would take too long to achieve any material benefit. To date only Cadillac and Toyota have indicated they will proceed with the technology.

Shelving the standard will also further delay the creation of the centralized security or message credentialing system (SCMS or security credentials management system) necessary to insure the authenticity and reliability of basic safety messages. Currently, the structure, financing and operation of the system has yet to be determined. Lack of a mandated phase-in further removes any urgency for proceeding with the development of the system.

Delaying adoption of this standard will also create even more uncertainty for the transportation departments, highway administrators, metropolitan planning organizations, regions and municipalities that have already begun planning for the infrastructure to support V2I communications. Those organizations are very committed to the deployment of V2I infrastructure as evidenced by a January 23, 2018 letter sent on behalf of a coalition of Infrastructure Owner Operators to DOT Secretary Chao and FCC Chairman Pai. However, given that the funding for those infrastructure improvements would likely come from available federal funding for Intelligent Transportation Systems, the current administration may prefer further delay.

Continued Availability of 5.9 GHz Bandwidth for DSRC

Almost 20 years ago, the FCC set aside the 5.9 GHz bandwith exclusively for DSRC. That exclusivity has seemingly been under attack by the telecommunications industry ever since. It has pushed the FCC to reallocate the bandwidth exclusively for unlicensed devices, namely Wi-Fi services, claiming that the bandwidth is largely unused for DSRC. At a minimum, that industry wants to share the bandwidth with DSRC. The auto industry and others object to sharing unless it can be demonstrated that unlicensed device transmissions will not interfere with DSRC. The FCC has been studying sharing protocols since 2016. If the telecommunications industry prevails, there may be no bandwidth available for DSRC.

The FCC’s current policy is the active support of the development of 5G wireless. It is freeing up or considering other bandwidths for 5G use. Unless enough other bandwidth can be made available for 5G, or a sharing protocol can be used without impairing DRSC, the FCC policy could spell trouble for DSRC.

Conclusion

At present, it appears that autonomous technologies are being favored over connected vehicle technologies, likely due to the price tag for development of V2I infrastructure and the fact that the auto/technology companies foot the bill for the former. Any possible barriers to the deployment of AVs are being identified for removal. At the same time, connected vehicle technologies are in a state of flux.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Dickinson Wright | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Dickinson Wright
Contact
more
less

Dickinson Wright on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.