Top 5 Takeaways from ITS America 2018 on the V2X Path Forward

As the ITS America 2018 Annual Meeting convened in Detroit this week, the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind was, “what is the path forward for Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) auto safety services?”  These services, which leverage vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure, and vehicle-to-pedestrian communications to dramatically improve roadway safety, are moving from the design and planning stage to deployment, with significant announcements from OEMs Toyota and General Motors (more on the GM announcement below) and a raft of state infrastructure deployments catalogued in a recent letter from the Michigan Department of Transportation to the FCC.  But even as deployment is occurring, uncertainty remains about continuing access to the spectrum needed to provide these services in the 5.9 GHz band and the potential implications of competing V2X standards – DSRC and C-V2X.  Discussion of these issues at the ITS America meeting yielded the following insights:

  • GM announcement boosts DSRC.  Mark Reuss, GM EVP of Global Product Development, announced during his keynote that GM will build DSRC on-board units into a high-volume Cadillac crossover model starting in 2023, with deployment to expand to all Cadillac models thereafter.  The announcement was a significant shot in the arm for DSRC following on Toyota’s announcement in April that it would start deploying DSRC on Toyota and Lexus vehicles in 2021. 
  • Tensions are high!  Anxiety among the audience of stakeholders during the V2X panels was high, as reflected in audience questions and panel reactions.  Among OEMs and state DOTs either deploying V2X services or considering such deployments in the near term, uncertainty about spectrum and competing standards has elevated stress levels.  Stakeholders’ primary concern was the negative impact on auto safety should regulatory uncertainty delay deployments, or result in deployment of services that are not interoperable.  Many stakeholders expressed the view that an end state in which vehicles are equipped with V2X technology but cannot talk to one another is simply unacceptable.  A close second concern was the possibility of stranded investments.  State DOTs understandably are reluctant to invest in technology that may be displaced, and keen to protect investments already made.
  • DoT testing will be a factor.  While everyone anxiously is awaiting the FCC’s Phase 1 test results regarding WiFi sharing with V2X services, there was discussion of ongoing federal DOT performance testing of V2X services as well.  Such performance testing will bear on DOT’s view of competing technology standards and how they measure up against established safety metrics.
  • FCC Refresh Public Notice band plans are not the only band plans in play.  In regulatory circles, band plan discussions to this point have focused on the options identified in the FCC’s Refresh Public Notice.  Discussion at the ITS America show suggested that, in light of the emergence of competing V2X standards, new band plans likely will be proposed.
  • Significant technical questions remain.  As panelist Dr. John Kenney, Director of Networking Research at the Toyota InfoTechnology Center put it, the big questions center around interference and interoperability.  With competing V2X standards vying to use the 5.9 GHz band, these questions will need to be resolved if competing standards are to co-exist.  A particular concern raised by stakeholders was whether any interoperability solution would have a deleterious impact on V2X communications by increasing latency.

The stage is set for each of these issues to receive more attention in the coming months.  Resolution of regulatory uncertainty will be a key factor in expediting deployment of V2X services and achieving the network effects necessary to achieve maximum roadway safety benefits. 

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