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Autonomous Vehicles

Automated Vehicles May Be Further Away Than They Appear



WASHINGTON, July 25, 2019 – There is still a long way to go before self-driving vehicles can be fully integrated into society, said engineering and policy experts gathered at the Brookings Institution for a day-long conference on Thursday.

In the opening keynote address, Kenneth Leonard, director of the Transportation Department’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office, said that the Department of Transportation has worked to develop the promise of connected and automated vehicles to solve some of transportation’s biggest challenges.

There are about 40,000 fatalities on U.S. roads each year, he said. The U.S. close to significant changes in the vehicle industry. However, in the rush to utilize spectrum for transportation purposes, the potential vulnerability of information sharing among vehicles has been overlooked.

The Transportation Department will lead efforts to address potential safety risks, advance the lifesaving potential of automation and seek to strengthen public confidence in these emerging technologies, said Leonard.

Consumer safety and trust are crucial for Autonomous Vehicle acceptance, said Sanjay Ranka, professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Florida. That is why data-driven approaches are key as well as the use of centralized computing to manage privacy and stability.

Regarding AV regulation, Former Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy Derek Kan said that safety is the number one priority. For that reason, the federal government needs to modernize vehicle safety standards to determine how to measure the value of safety in this era.

But government action is a hurdle as the current administration does not consider AV development inevitable, he said. Although the federal government has the authority to pull defective vehicles off the road, it has no “clear” role in insurance liability, forcing states to assign liability on their own terms.

To ensure safety, we need to know what specific metrics we want AV data to report, said Kan.

Part of that problem, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be a consensus definition of “safety” within the transportation industry, said Marjory Blumenthal, senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Both the public and private sectors don’t know how to efficiently test and measure safety.

The public sector knows even less information, she said, because autonomous developers do not disclose all the details of their research.

Given how competitive the automobile industry is, innovation resulting from that competition is vital, said Cliff Winston, senior fellow at Searle Freedom Trust.

Private sector competition is at the right level, but the problem is the policy stance, he said. Regulatory delays combined and constraints on technological innovations hurt automotive advances.

The public sector needs more input into this technology, said Blumenthal, because AVs are not yet consistent with their design and operation. Policymakers need to think about AV safety from a system perspective, where different factors make up the mechanics of the vehicle itself.

Winston agreed that the government needs to establish a testing framework for AVs on a national scale. In turn, developers will push for the infrastructure needed to smoothly operate the vehicles.

Policymakers should instead emphasize the cost of not having these types of vehicles, said Rick Geddes, founding director at Cornell University’s program in infrastructure policy. It would be a “huge advantage” if people started to think differently about how they pay for and use roads.

The “status-quo bias” towards traditional vehicles, said Winston, deters the government from authorizing manufacturing and fully autonomous driving.

The technology is not changing as fast as people like to think, said Blumenthal. Projections for AV deployment are further than anticipated due to setbacks from accidents. She said that these accidents provide a poor outlook on the industry as a whole.

(Photo of Brookings Institution event by Masha Abarinova.)

Autonomous Vehicles

Advocates for Connected Vehicle Technology Urge the FCC to Act

At stake are final rules for the widespread use of CV2X technology in addition to spectrum allocation.



Illustration of self-driving car technology by Electric Motor Engineering

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2023 – Experts in automated vehicles are urging regulators to approve the implementation of cellular vehicle-to-everything technology, warning a lengthy regulatory process could stifle innovation.

In April, the Federal Communications Commission approved a joint waiver by 14 automakers and equipment manufacturers to use CV2X technology in the 5.9 GHz transportation safety band after nearly two years of review. Since then, numerous similar applications have been submitted and due to review.

“The point of filing was to say, we don’t have time to wait until you finish with the rule making, FCC,” said Suzanne Tetreault, partner at the law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer, a counsel to the 5G Automotive Association.

The industry’s shift from dedicated short-range communication to CV2X has prompted authorities to figure clear guidelines on the use of this emerging technology. While both allow for vehicles to broadcast signals, CV2X enables more robust connection between vehicles and infrastructure through high-speed cellular networks such as the 5G wireless standard.

These signals can be used to avoid collisions, traffic congestion and support the development of driverless vehicles.

The FCC is currently working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Transportation to come up with final rules for the widespread use of CV2X technology in addition to spectrum allocation.

Charles Cooper, associate administrator from the NTIA, explained that regulators need to find “a common basis for technical evaluation,” saying “it may take time and effort, but the payoff is tremendous.”

Karen Van Dyke, a spectrum management official at the Department of Transportation, added taking time for regulation is necessary to ensure “zero fatalities.”

Experts in the field, however, pointed out that it is unrealistic to guarantee total safety before moving to the implementation phase. Instead, regulators should aim for more attainable, short-term goals or “low-hanging fruits.”

“You don’t have to solve the problems 100 percent,” said Bryan Mulligan, president of Applied Information Inc. “Let’s focus on vision 50 – how can we get 50 percent of the fatalities saved in the next five years.”

Trial and error are the only way to generate the innovation and data necessary to guarantee safety, according to experts.

“The key thing is moving quick to get deployed and taking those advantages to feed information to the other vehicles,” said John Kuzin, vice president of spectrum policy and regulatory counsel at chips maker Qualcomm.

Meanwhile, the FCC is still waiting to regain its spectrum licensing authority, which has expired for the first time in the agency’s history.

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Autonomous Vehicles

Transportation Expert at CES 2022: Public-Private Partnerships Critical for Autonomous Vehicles

The bottom line reason for state interest in autonomous vehicles is safety, says Utah transportation official.



Photo of Blaine Leonard by Jeffrey D. Allred of the Deseret News

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2022 – Public-private partnerships are the key to realizing the future of smart cities, a transportation expert said at the CES2022 technology trade show here on Wednesday.

To make cities and transportation truly “smart,” industry stakeholders must ensure that technologies enabling autonomous vehicles are fast and ubiquitously deployed.

Blaine Leonard, transportation technology engineer for Utah’s department of transportation, said at a session on “Smart Cities and Transportation” that public safety was his office’s top priority when working to connect autonomous vehicles to physical infrastructure.

“As a state agency, people often ask us why we are interested in automated vehicles, and the bottom line is safety,” he said.

“We lost 40,000 people to car crashes in 2020,” noting how 97% of all crashes are caused in part by human error.  “As an agency, our focus is zero –– we want to get to zero fatalities.”

Leonard discussed how low latency and data speeds are critical to connecting vehicles to traffic systems. “From a state agency perspective, if we’re going to prevent crashes, we need that millisecond advantage.”

However, he stressed that harder-to-reach places may have to wait longer for these services. “That technology is important,” he said. “How quickly it’ll be here depends on where you are.”

While industry leaders push for faster deployment, Leonard says “It’ll take a number of years, maybe even a decade or two, to update all traffic systems” across the country.

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Autonomous Vehicles

Proposed Spectrum Reallocation Could Stifle Global Competitiveness, According to Automotive Experts



Photo of self driving car by Grendelkhan used with permission

June 10, 2020 — The Federal Communications Commission’s proposal of redistributing spectrum on the 5.9 GigaHertz (GHz) band drew criticism from auto industry experts on a Federal Communications Bar Associations webinar Tuesday. 

The agency proposed repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations to support broadband applications. 

If enacted, the new rule would take a second look at spectrum allocation on the 5.9 GHz band and propose appropriate changes to ensure the spectrum is employed to its best use. 

The 5.9 GHz band (5.850-5.925 GHz) has been reserved for use by dedicated short-range communications for the past two decades, which is a service of Intelligent Transportation Systems designed to enable vehicle-related communications. Unfortunately, DSRC technology has evolved slowly and has not been widely deployed. 

Under the newly proposed rule, the FCC would continue to dedicate spectrum in the upper 30 megahertz of the 5.9 GHz band to meet current and future transportation and vehicle safety needs, while repurposing the lower 45 megahertz of the band for unlicensed operations, such as Wi-Fi.

Since the initial deployment of DSRC technology, C-V2X technology was created, allowing vehicles to communicate with each other, as well as infrastructure, bikers and pedestrians. 

According to Matthew Hardy, program director for planning and policy for AASHTO, C-V2X technology far surpasses the capabilities presented by DSRC. Hardy argued the technology is crucial because it can prevent life-threatening crashes from occurring.

Sean Conway, a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, contended that retaining all 75 MGHz is necessary for innovation, as 25 MGHz in the upper band would be utilized by 4G C-V2X, while another 50 MGHz in the lower band would be necessary to advance 5G C-V2X. 

Angel Preston, director of safety at the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, argued that the actions proposed by the FCC could hinder global competitiveness, as the U.S. is decreasing C-V2X technology deployment while other countries are increasing construction. 

Preston cited that 13 Chinese automotive makers committed to utilizing C-V2X technology in their models in coming years.

Opposition to the automotive experts was raised by Danielle Pineres, vice president of the Internet & Television Association, who argued that no more than 40 MGHz should be reserved for automotive safety, alluding to the fact that the 5.9 GHz band has been relatively unutilized for more than 20 years.

FCC inaction on the matter continues to stifle the progression of both broadband deployment and the automobile industry.   

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