The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has requested comments by January 25, 2019 regarding the appropriate communications technologies through which vehicles will communicate with various enabled objects to enhance safety, mobility and connectivity, collectively referred to as vehicle-to-everything or "V2X" communications. With the rapid development and deployment of V2X technologies, DOT is offering stakeholders this important opportunity to comment and educate the DOT on V2X technological developments, the implications of such development on DOT’s primary focus on dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) for vehicle-to-vehicle communications, the interoperability of alternative technologies and the need for technology neutrality to avoid the development of government policies that stifle innovation.

V2X encompasses more specific types of communications, including:

  • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) exchanges of information, such as position and speed data;
  • Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, such as vehicles notifying authorities of deteriorating roadway conditions and receiving traffic condition information; and
  • Vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communications, such as vehicles sensing pedestrian locations in relation to the vehicle and warning pedestrians to avoid collisions.

Automotive and communications industries stakeholders have long engaged in a debate over the appropriate V2X standards for connected and automated vehicles and particularly, for the appropriate use of certain communications spectrum set aside for V2V communications by the Federal Communications Commission, the US regulatory authority for interstate and international communications. In October 1999, the FCC allocated 75 megahertz of spectrum in the unlicensed wireless 5.9 GHz band for "Intelligent Transportation Systems," to allow vehicles to communicate with each other and with roadside systems over DSRC communications links for purposes such as collision avoidance, traffic congestion relief and toll collection. Various stakeholders (notably, NCTA-The Internet & Television Association) have urged the FCC to consider freeing up such spectrum for unlicensed wi-fi use, and there have been ongoing concerns related to the potential for radio interference in the congested 5.9 GHz spectrum space. Additionally, vehicle manufacturers are developing connected and automated vehicles to competing standards and some manufacturers are looking to create an industry standard for better legal protection following accidents.

In the absence of a clear technology standard, DOT has focused on DSRC as the primary medium through which vehicles will communicate with their surroundings. In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the DOT administration with the authority to regulate motor vehicle safety, issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would have required the adoption and standardization of DSRC for new light-duty vehicles.

However, in light of the much anticipated roll-out of 5G in the United States, DOT is seeking comments on alternatives to DSRC and information to evaluate how the safety and mobility benefits of connectived vehicles may be best achieved. DOT emphasized that alternatives to DSRC would need to meet "performance and interoperability requirements, which are based on the capabilities of today’s DSRC-based V2V communications."

Importantly, DOT requested comments to specific questions, such as (1) what are the advantages and disadvantages of existing or future technologies that could be used for V2X communications, (2) to what extent is it technically feasible for multiple V2X communications technologies and protocols to be interoperable with one another, and (3) do different communication technologies present different issues concerning physical security, message security, or other issues such as cybersecurity or privacy?

Given the expanded capabilities of new technologies, as well as the infrastructure intensive requirements for DSRC to operate efficiently, all stakeholders should submit comments to educate the DOT to improve the regulatory landscape of V2X. It is also a critical opportunity to engage DOT and help shape DOT's desired partnership with automotive industry participants to automation.

Baker McKenzie is the leading firm in vehicle and automated technologies, including intellectual property, regulation, data privacy, and security issues. Most importantly, Baker McKenzie has the depth of knowledge and range of experience to address the complex industry and government interests before the DOT. We also have an unmatched global understanding of automated vehicle regulation that can help shape the regulatory environment in both the US and around the world. Visit our Global Driverless Vehicle Survey for additional information.

View the federal register notice.