A backlash against vehicle to vehicle communications?

Junko Yoshida

September 19, 2014

Junko YoshidaSeptember 19, 2014

MADISON, Wis. — Let's be clear. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications will be mandated in the United States. For car companies, V2V won't be an option. For us consumers, it won't be a nice feature to have if we can pay for it. If all goes well, V2V could become a new regulation by the end of this decade -- though many may argue that this is a big "if."

Under the V2V plan, your car would use a built-in transponder to broadcast its position, type, speed, and trajectory wirelessly 10 times a second in all directions. Other vehicles within range would do the same.

What for? For your safety, according to the Department of Transportation (DoT).

In theory, equipment installed in each car, bus, or truck would use incoming data to compute a possible collision course with another vehicle or object -- and alert the driver if a crash is imminent.

Research released last month by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that V2V's two safety applications -- left turn assistance and intersection movement assistance -- could prevent up to 592,000 crashes and save as many as 1,083 lives a year.

An illustration of vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
(Source: NHTSA)
An illustration of vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
(Source: NHTSA)

Judging by more than 50 comments filed in the public comment section on the government's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (excluding comments filed via letters), the public's general sentiment for V2V isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy thus far. The comments range from "hell, no" and "I WILL NOT SUBMIT TO THIS RULE" to "Just another way for the Government to track our every move."

One commenter said, "Hostile parties using simple noise 'jamming' attacks can shut down V2V." Another said, "This is a great technology that will ultimately save thousands of lives. However, the concern around privacy/government tracking needs to be addressed before a mandate can be issued."

Well-founded fear
It's natural for people to fear new technologies, and the concerns about V2V security and privacy are well founded.

Do the government and the automotive industry need to offer better public education on V2V in earnest? You bet.

Do different players in the technology industry -- beyond those already working for auto companies -- need to participate in various V2V workshops? Absolutely. Too many pieces of technology aren't nailed down yet.

For example, Paul Hansen, publisher of The Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics, told us the proposed Security Credential Management System -- an infrastructure to determine whether a message your car is receiving from another car is legitimate -- is "one of the most ambitious, and daunting, security systems we've ever seen. So I was told by security experts."

However, framing V2V privacy matters as public relations, or the lack thereof, is misguided.

In a recent interview with EE Times, Egil Juliussen, director of research for infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) at IHS Automotive, acknowledged that we, as a society, need to sort out such thorny issues as "who owns the [V2V] data, how the data is protected, who could see the data, who manages the data, and eventually, who are authorized to monetize the data, if it is ever allowed." To frame the debate properly and come to an agreement among different parties, the United States needs a new piece of "privacy and security legislation." In the end, that could be "the best outcome" of the public debate over the V2V mandate.

Whether the public is prepared for a public campaign on privacy laws is far from clear. "We will likely never have a Personal Data Privacy Law," Scott J. McCormick, president of the Connected Vehicle Trade Association, told us. "That's because of the laissez-faire form of economics this country operates under."

Consumers already give up a whole lot of privacy in order to use their cellphones, he said. "So why should a privacy question be device specific? Should there be different rules for my car or marine radio or cellphone?"

Skeptics: "Why worry?"
Privacy and security issues aside, it's important to note that there are plenty of V2V skeptics. By the time US drivers could benefit from V2V communications (i.e., your car can talk with enough cars around it to avoid collisions), most drivers may already own cars fully equipped with ADAS sensors designed for safety.

But IHS Automotive senior analyst Jeremy Carlson said that, once we've "gone down the path" of mandating V2V through a regulatory process, a reversal is unlikely.

In a nutshell, we're stuck with it. If that's the case, it's high time for the EE community to join the V2V conversation.

To get a debate going on the security and privacy issues around V2V, EE Times recently talked to several automotive industry experts and analysts to clarify some V2V facts. In the following pages, we lay out what we already know about V2V, what we think are the stakes, and what we see still in development.

To read more of this external content and to leave a comment, go to "Backlash Coming on Car-to-Car Talk?"

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