The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) issued its long-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications (“NPRM”) on December 13, 2016. The NPRM proposes to add a new safety standard to the current Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to require the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (“V2V”) technology in all new light-duty vehicles over a two- to four-year phase-in period following issuance of a final rule. The NPRM follows NHTSA’s issuance of an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in August 2014.

NHTSA defines V2V technology as a “crash avoidance technology that relies on communication of information between nearby vehicles to warn drivers about potentially dangerous situations that could lead to crashes.” As required in the NPRM, the V2V system would utilize a “dedicated short-range communications [“DSRC”] technology to exchange basic data with other vehicles about factors such as location, speed, direction and braking status.” The system would then determine whether to warn the operator of the vehicle of an impending collision in an attempt to avoid it.

Unlike in-vehicle automated systems, which have limited collision-detection range around a vehicle, V2V messaging has a range of approximately 300 meters, offering more time to warn a driver of impending hazards and more time for the driver to react. V2V technology also allows the vehicle to “see” around corners and other obstacles, thus greatly enhancing the vehicle’s hazard detection capabilities.

Although the NPRM would require V2V technology to be installed in vehicles when manufactured, V2V systems could also be installed “aftermarket” or potentially could be brought into the vehicle by handheld devices, as long as all such devices are compatible with DSRC messaging. Since new vehicles each year comprise less than 10 percent of all passenger vehicles on the highways, equipping the vehicle fleet with V2V messaging capability through means other than factory-installed devices in new vehicles is critical to promptly achieving the optimal safety benefits of a V2V cooperative safety network.

The NPRM points out the many potential safety applications of V2V systems, including Intersection Movement Assist, Left Turn Asist, Emergency Electronic Brake Light, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning and Lane Change Warning and Do Not Pass Warning. NHTSA estimates that implementation across the entire national fleet of just Left Turn Assist and Intersection Movement Assist could potentially reduce the average number of crashes, injuries and fatalities by 50 percent. NHTSA further projects that V2V, coupled with Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (“V2I”) technology, when fully deployed could potentially avoid or reduce the severity of up to 80 percent of all vehicles crashes involving unimpaired drivers.

The NPRM also reiterates the important interrelationship of V2V/V2I and automated vehicles. Although V2V/V2I are warnings-only systems, separate and distinct from in-vehicle automated technologies, NHTSA considers them highly complementary systems. V2V’s vastly expanded safety messaging range, coupled with automated in-vehicle crash avoidance systems, could achieve an overall safety benefit beyond the capabilities of these systems independently.

The NPRM also addresses the significant concerns regarding the security and privacy aspects of V2V systems. As a networked system, V2V/V2I are intended to employ a secure and reliable communications network, allow only certified devices to access that network, and have a trusted entity (the Security Certificate Management System - “SCMS”) to issue, distribute, and, when necessary, revoke device certificates. As envisioned, and consistent with long-articulated privacy policy for V2V/V2I systems, safety messaging through the system would consist only of generic safety information not unique or identifiable to the vehicle or its operator.

The period for public comment on the NPRM is 90 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.  Comments may be submitted via www.safercar.gov/v2v or www.regulations.gov (enter Docket No. NHTSA-2016-0126).