PARIS — The suspense is killing Drue Freeman.
A consultant and advisor to automotive and semiconductor industries, Freeman isn’t paranoid, but he admits he gets nervous over the following question: Will the U.S. government keep its promise to mandate Connected Cars before the end of the year?
Or will the November election and a new administration drive a host of new autonomous-car technologies into the ditch?
By Connected Cars, Freeman is referring to Dedicated Short-Range Communication (DSRC) based Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication (together, V2X Communication).
In the minds of many V2X proponents, the technology has been thoroughly vetted, tested and demonstrated in the real world. It’s been proven to save lives. Market research suggests a mandate is necessary to spur investment in infrastructure and applications.
Freeman insists that the V2X mandate should be issued in the last 100 days of the Obama administration, before what may be the end of Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx’s tenure. Without the federal government’s commitment, he warns that V2X might never come to fruition in the United States. “When we have a new administration next January — regardless who becomes the next President of the United States, I suspect that they will be too busy dealing with their own new agendas” — other than V2X.
Regulatory process thus far
Two years ago — August, 2014 — the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released advance notice of proposed rule making (ANPRM) on this topic, along with a supporting comprehensive research report on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology.
After a 60-day comment period, NHTSA developed a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM). That was delivered to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in January, 2016.
Despite the urging of the tech-industry lobby, NHTSA has yet to deliver a V2X mandate. Its originally anticipated delivery date was last fall. It was delayed to mid-2016 (with predictions as late as the fourth quarter). Mid-2016 has now passed without a peep from the transportation agency.
Freeman told us, “Many credible people, including ITS America (Intelligent Transportation Society of America), told me so many times that this will happen.”
Traffic safety as legacy
Seeing only 100 days left in the current administration, Freeman said, “I can’t just sit back and wait for it.”
Freeman wrote an open letter to the Obama Administration entitled “Obama Administration’s Final 100 Days — Leaving a Legacy of Saving Lives on our Highways.”
In his letter, Freeman wrote:
As we rapidly approach the final hundred days of the Obama Presidency, I believe there is one as of yet unfinished piece of business that would qualify as a major accomplishment of the current administration: Traffic Safety.
He praised the current administration for having “an impressive record on enabling the advancement of traffic safety through technology.” Freeman wrote: “During the past eight years, the NHTSA and the US DOT have issued several rulings that will have a significant positive impact on road safety, including the mandatory deployment of rear-visibility technology from May 2018.”
Freeman also cited the ANPRM on DSRC-based V2X Communication the agency issued as an important step to reduce a significant number of traffic accidents. However, he added, “Unfortunately, the automotive industry has been waiting for this ruling for well over a year and time is running out.”
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