In a September e-newsletter we discussed how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was soliciting public comments about its proposal to create a national standard to require Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications capability on all passenger cars and light trucks. NMA President Gary Biller submitted the following comments outlining the NMA’s concerns over this technology. You can learn more about NHTSA’s V2V rulemaking process here.
Many important players from various fields (automotive, privacy/civil rights, insurance, etc.) have provided comments in response to the V2V proposal as well. We will be reviewing these in detail and providing you with their perspectives in future newsletters.
I am commenting on behalf of the National Motorists Association, a drivers’ rights organization founded over 30 years ago to represent the interests of the motoring public. Our membership consists of several thousand members across the United States. Together we are keenly interested in participating in the national conversation about the development of V2V technology requirements. Thank you for providing a valuable forum for the public to comment on an issue that will affect all road users.
Our primary interests fall within Subsections e (Public Acceptance), f (Privacy Concerns), g (V2V Communications Security), h (Liability), and j (Preliminary Benefits Estimates). Because NHTSA is expected to separately publish a draft Privacy Impact Assessment and ask for input from the public at that time, we will forego commenting on Subsection f at this time.
Subsection e – Public Acceptance
Because communications and surveillance technology has been advancing at a rapid pace in recent years, far outpacing legislative attempts to provide consumer protections, the public is skeptical of the motives behind V2V. Despite some intriguing safety applications that can be made possible by V2V communications, public acceptance will hinge greatly upon safeguards put in place to ensure that DSRC information is secure from malicious use and isn’t captured, stored, or otherwise used by governmental agencies to monitor movements and behaviors of motorists. While NHTSA expresses confidence that V2V data won’t be available for such uses, the creation and implementation of V2V applications will be by auto manufacturers and third parties with profit motives. The public will need greater assurance through the standards developed by NHTSA that proper privacy controls will be in place.
The cost of implementation of V2V is another area of public concern. While adding an estimated $350 to the cost of a light vehicle by 2020 may seem a small price to pay for the potential safety benefits of the technology that is very definitely a burden for many new car buyers and for vehicle owners faced with retrofit packages. If V2V technology is expected to produce tangible safety benefits, then much of the cost of implementation should be offset by lower vehicle insurance premiums, or be financed directly by the insurance industry.
Subsection g – V2V Communications Security
When data are transferred wirelessly, the threat of appropriation and malicious use of that information exists. Robust safeguards must be integrated into NHTSA V2V standards and the design criteria for implementers of the technology. Motorists must be assured that their privacy is secure within their own vehicles and protected when information is transmitted from their vehicles.
Subsection h – Liability
Section X of the research report concentrates primarily on industry liability issues. Legislative protections rarely keep pace with technological advances. In the case of V2V, it is critical that Congress define and draw limits on the liability of individual motorists before V2V communications become commonplace. The research report notes that the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration – Consortium has identified key liability issues, repeated below for emphasis. These are indeed critical issues that must be addressed before widespread adaptation of V2V technology:
- Whether and, if so, how V2V warning applications increase the risk of liability for OEMs, operators, and drivers;
- The need for Congress to put in place one or more legal mechanisms for distributing risk among OEMs, operators, drivers, and other public and private stakeholders;
- Whether V2V warning applications will change the way the legal system assesses driver vs. equipment error;
- Whether owners may be legally accountable for shutting off or failing properly to maintain V2V warning systems; and
- Whether the human machine interface required for V2V warning systems will increase driver distraction in a way that will affect legal liability
Subsection j – Preliminary Benefits Estimates
While V2V communication technology has the potential to add another dimension to vehicle safety, it is viable as a mandate only if the safety benefits outweigh the related costs of implementation. What would the injection of a V2V mandate (and all the issues NHTSA and others raise) do to the trajectory and cost of current manufacturer efforts with vehicle-resident safety technologies? Given time, cost and trade off, would V2V put a damper on broader deployment of vehicle-resident safety technologies to provide narrower and perhaps less certain benefits?
The automakers have invested in vehicle-resident safety technologies without regard to V2V or V2I capabilities. These technologies provide warnings to drivers in intuitive ways and also have the ability to initiate evasive action if drivers don’t heed the warnings. Can current research determine a definitive cost/benefit assessment when the V2V scenarios are compared to current vehicle-resident safety and communications technologies?
Implementing V2V is a complex endeavor. The first rule should be to anticipate and avoid unintended consequences as much as possible.
Thank you for considering our comments regarding the implementation of V2V technology on vehicles in the United States. The National Motorists Association remains available to participate in ongoing discussions about this and related topics of major concern to motorists.