20 Questions About Connected Vehicles

1. What is connected vehicle technology?

Connected vehicles enable safe, interoperable networked wireless communications among vehicles, the infrastructure, and passengers’ personal communications devices.

2. How long will it take before I see these cars in my dealership?

In 2016 NHTSA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology for new light vehicles. More than 400 comments were received by the public and they are being reviewed by USDOT. Equipment suppliers have indicated that they could have an adequate supply of readily available, mass-produced, internal components for a V2V device approximately 2.5 to 3 years after NHTSA moves forward with some type of regulatory action. In the meantime, General Motors has installed connected vehicle technology in select 2017 Cadillac models.

3. How much will this technology increase the cost of a new car?

Based on preliminary information, NHTSA currently estimates that the V2V equipment and supporting communications functions (including a security management system) would cost approximately $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020. These costs would also include an additional $9 to $18 per year in fuel costs due to added vehicle weight from the V2V system.

4. How is my privacy protected?

V2V technologies do not pose a significant threat to privacy and have been designed to help protect against vehicle tracking by the government or others:

  • The system will not collect or store any data on individuals or individual vehicles, nor will it enable the government to do so.
  • There is no data in the safety messages exchanged by vehicles or collected by the V2V security system that could be used by law enforcement or private entities to personally identify a speeding or erratic driver.
  • The system—operated by private entities—will not permit tracking through space or time of vehicles linked to specific owners or drivers or persons.
  • Third parties attempting to use the system to track a vehicle would find it extremely difficult to do so, particularly in light of far simpler and cheaper means available for that purpose.
  • The system will not collect financial information, personal communications, or other information linked to individuals. It will enroll V2V enabled vehicles automatically, without collecting any information identifying specific vehicles or owners.
  • The system will not provide a “pipe” into the vehicle for extracting data. The system will enable NHTSA and motor vehicle manufacturers to find lots or production runs of potentially defective V2V equipment without use of VIN numbers or other information that could identify specific drivers or vehicles.

5. Will the system be secure?

The system as contemplated contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure that vehicles can rely on messages sent from other vehicles. To create the required environment of trust, the V2V system must include security infrastructure to credential each message, as well as a communications network to get security credentials and related information from vehicles to the entities providing system security (and vice versa). NHTSA currently anticipates that private entities will create, fund, and manage the security and communications components of the V2V system.

6. Are there any challenges to deploying this technology?

The deployment of V2V technologies faces a number of challenges, which the USDOT is working with the automobile industry to address. These challenges include:

  • Finalizing the technical framework and management framework of a V2V communication security system, which will be unique in its size and structure
  • Ensuring that the possible sharing with other wireless users of the radio-frequency spectrum used by V2V communications will not adversely affect V2V technology's performance
  • Ensuring that drivers respond appropriately to warnings of potential collisions
  • Addressing the uncertainty related to potential liability issues posed by V2V technologies
  • Addressing any concerns the public may have, including those related to privacy. DOT is collaborating with automobile manufacturers and others to find potential technical and policy solutions to these challenges and plans to continue these efforts.

7. How is this different from the technology that is in cars today?

Some of the most advanced crash avoidance technologies present on vehicles today include a host of on-board sensors, cameras, and radar applications. These technologies may warn drivers of impending danger so that the driver can take corrective action, or may even be able to intervene on the driver’s behalf.

However, V2V communications represent an additional step in helping to warn drivers about impending danger. V2V communications use on-board dedicated short-range radio communication devices to transmit messages about a vehicle’s speed, heading, brake status, and other information to other vehicles and receive the same information from the messages, with range and “line-of-sight” capabilities that exceed current and near-term systems—in some cases, nearly twice the range. This longer detection distance and ability to “see” around corners or “through” other vehicles helps V2V-equipped vehicles perceive some threats sooner than sensors, cameras, or radar can, and warn their drivers accordingly.

Connected vehicle technology also enables vehicles to exchange information with infrastructure, such as traffic signals, through vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications. V2I communications help to extend the benefits of connected vehicles beyond safety, to include mobility and the environment. Today’s technology doesn’t offer such benefits.

8. Will these cars stop by themselves?

No. The driver is always in control of their vehicle.

9. How do connected vehicles relate to automated vehicles?

The full benefits of vehicle automation can be achieved only through connectivity. By integrating connected with automated vehicles, we can improve the safety of our roads, expand our transportation capabilities, and greatly extend mobility options to everyone—from the disabled, the elderly, to the inexperienced teenage driver.

The Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office is already moving forward with research that advances the concept of connected vehicles to automated vehicles. The technology we are developing today will help automated vehicles by being aware of the vehicles and infrastructure around them that cannot be addressed by current sensor technology.

Even though the private sector is moving quickly in this space, the USDOT will play a significant role in the deployment of automated vehicles. We will not only facilitate the development and deployment but also work to ensure that automation enhances safety, mobility, and sustainability. We will work closely with the industry partners to identify the benefit opportunities. Apart from technology related issues, we have other major issues such as cybersecurity, testing, and certification on this road to full automation.

10. What are the safety benefits of connected vehicles?

NHTSA preliminary estimates of safety benefits show that two safety applications—Left Turn Assist (LTA) and Intersection Movement Assist (IMA)—could prevent up to 592,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives saved per year. Put another way, V2V technology could help drivers avoid more than half of these types of crashes that would otherwise occur by providing advance warning. LTA warns drivers not to turn left in front of another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, and IMA warns them if it is not safe to enter an intersection due to a high probability of colliding with one or more vehicles. Additional applications could also help drivers avoid imminent danger through forward collision, blind spot, do not pass, and stop light/stop sign warnings.

11. Will connected vehicles help pedestrians?

Connected vehicles will provide benefits that extend beyond drivers to include pedestrians as well as travelers using public transportation. There are a couple of applications in development that directly relate to pedestrians:

  • Pedestrian in Signalized Crosswalk Warning: An application that warns transit bus operators when pedestrians, within the crosswalk of a signalized intersection, are in the intended path of the bus.
  • Mobile Accessible Pedestrian Signal System (PED-SIG): An application that allows for an automated call from the smart phone of a visually impaired pedestrian to the traffic signal, as well as audio cues to safely navigate the crosswalk.
  • Transit Bus Stop Pedestrian Warning: An application that alerts transit bus drivers and pedestrians at major bus stops when passengers are in harm’s way as buses pull into and out of a bus stop.

12. Will connected vehicles help me to avoid traffic and get me where I need to be on time?

Although safety is the USDOT’s top priority, connected vehicles also promise to provide benefits in improved mobility and efficiency of our nation’s transportation system. Some of the applications in development that will help to improve congestion and travel time include:

  • Dynamic Speed Harmonization (SPD-HARM): An application that aims to recommend target speeds in response to congestion, incidents, and road conditions to maximize throughput and reduce crashes
  • Queue Warning (Q-WARN): An application that aims to provide drivers timely warnings of existing and impending queues
  • Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC): An application that aims to dynamically adjust and coordinate cruise control speeds among platooning vehicles to improve traffic flow stability and increase throughput.

Applications could also improve traveler’s carpooling experience, such as:

  • Dynamic Ridesharing (D-RIDE): An application that uses dynamic ridesharing technology, personal mobile devices, and voice activated on-board equipment to match riders and drivers.

13. Will connected vehicle technology work on public transportation?

Applications related to connected vehicles could also improve public transportation services. Examples include:

  • Transit Signal Priority (TSP): An application that provides signal priority to transit at intersections and along arterial corridors
  • Connection Protection (T-CONNECT): An application that enables coordination among public transportation providers and travelers to improve the probability of successful transit transfers
  • Dynamic Transit Operations (T-DISP): An application that links available transportation service resources with travelers through dynamic transit vehicle scheduling, dispatching and routing capabilities
  • Pedestrian in Signalized Crosswalk Warning: An application that warns transit bus operators when pedestrians, within the crosswalk of a signalized intersection, are in the intended path of the bus.

14. Will the technology improve the environment?

The USDOT is also exploring ways that connected vehicles can reduce the impact of transportation on our environment. Some of the applications being researched include:

  • Eco-Approach and Departure at Signalized Intersections: A V2I application where intersection traffic signals broadcast the current state of signal phasing (red, yellow, or green) and time remaining in that phase. These data are used by connected vehicles to support eco-friendly speed trajectories as vehicles approach and depart from a signalized intersection.
  • Eco-Traffic Signal Timing: An application that uses data collected wirelessly from vehicles (and other sources) to optimize the performance of traffic signals, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
  • Eco-Traffic Signal Priority: An application that allows transit or freight vehicles approaching a signalized intersection to request signal priority, thereby adjusting the signal timing dynamically to improve service for the vehicle. Priority decisions are optimized for the environment by considering vehicle type, passenger count, or adherence to schedule.

15. Can the technology help me in bad weather?

Bad weather conditions, such as snowstorms, heavy rain, and fog, can have a severe impact on our nation’s roads. Thus, the USDOT is trying to better understand weather’s impacts to develop and promote effective tools and strategies to mitigate them. The USDOT is also trying to determine how adverse weather may affect sensors and other hardware in relation to connected and fully autonomous vehicles. The following connected vehicle road weather applications could help reduce the impact of adverse weather on the safety and efficiency of our roads:

  • Pikalert® Vehicle Data Translator (VDT): A sophisticated model that collects road and atmospheric conditions data from connected vehicles and other traditional weather information sources to infer pavement surface conditions as well as atmospheric conditions. This information is used to generate hazardous conditions alerts and the VDT transmits them to other portions of the road weather management network.
  • Motorist Advisories and Warnings (MAW): An application that will use road-weather data from connected vehicles and VDT outputs to provide information to travelers on deteriorating road and weather conditions on specific roadway segments.
  • Enhanced Maintenance Decision Support System (E-MDSS): An application that will acquire road-weather data from connected vehicles and ancillary sources of weather information to forecast atmospheric and pavement conditions and to recommend pavement treatment plans to snow plow operators and drivers of maintenance vehicles.
  • Weather Responsive Traffic Management (WRTM): Applications and strategies that will use connected vehicle data, road weather data, communications systems, and other traffic and weather data to enhance the operation of traffic control systems including variable speed limits, traffic signals and ramp meters during severe weather events.

16. What is the USDOT’s role in the development of the technology?

The USDOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office (ITS JPO) fosters the development and future deployment of connected vehicle technologies. Our focus at the ITS JPO is on research. Through research, we are able to push the boundaries of what’s possible, spur technology innovation, and reduce the risks of moving from the laboratory to the real world. Our research is critical to developing solutions to our industry’s toughest challenges—and to ensuring seamless technology deployment.

However, connected vehicle research involves all agencies within the USDOT including NHTSA, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Railroad Administration. The USDOT and its public and private partners are working to address the technical, safety, and policy challenges and are helping to create the standards and the wireless architecture that will be the backbone of the system.

We are all working together so that everyone will be able to experience the promise of connected vehicles—a near future of less crashes, fewer traffic jams, and better fuel use.

17. Will my community have to make any changes to accommodate these new vehicles?

With the emergence of a nationwide base of suitably equipped vehicles, V2I applications become a practical reality but will require the deployment of a suitable field infrastructure.

Some elements, such as traffic signal interfaces or roadside equipment to send infrastructure information or to receive wireless safety messages broadcast from vehicles, are unique to state and local DOT interests. Other elements of the overall connected vehicle system, particularly those necessary for vehicle-based safety applications, may be provided by the automotive industry, and the elements associated with security management could be provided by a third-party entity. These specifics are still evolving.

18. Are the car companies involved in this technology?

Since 2002, the USDOT has been engaged in research with automotive manufacturers on V2V crash avoidance systems that use very high-speed wireless communications and vehicle-positioning technology. In 2006, the USDOT joined together with a partnership of automotive manufacturers, Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), to develop and test prototype V2V safety applications. The overarching goal was to determine whether this technology would work better than existing vehicle-based safety systems, like adaptive cruise control, to address imminent crash scenarios.

CAMP includes Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai-Kai, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota.

19. What are the next steps?

NHTSA made an announcement in February 2014 that it planned to continue moving toward V2V communication technology in light vehicles. In August 2014, NHTSA released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) along with a comprehensive research report on V2V communications technology. The report included analysis of NHTSA’s research findings in several key areas including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. The ANPRM also seeked public input on these findings to support the Department’s regulatory work to eventually require V2V devices in new light vehicles. NHTSA issued a proposed rule on connected vehicles and is considering public comments.

The USDOT is also pursuing a Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program. The USDOT launched the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Program in 2015 to spur implementations of connected vehicle technology in regions throughout the nation. The USDOT’s goals for the pilot deployment program are straightforward—accelerate deployment, measure impact, and uncover the technical and non-technical barriers to deployment in a hands-on way. The Department selected three sites for the regional connected vehicle pilots—Wyoming; New York City; and Tampa, Florida. These pilots will use connected vehicle technologies to improve safe and efficient truck movement along I-80 in southern Wyoming; exploit V2V and intersection communications to improve vehicle flow and pedestrian safety in New York City; and deploy multiple safety and mobility applications on and in proximity to reversible freeway lanes in Tampa, Florida.

20. How can I learn more about this technology?

The USDOT hosts several public meetings, workshops, and webinars to provide information on connected vehicles, such as the following:

  • Connected Vehicles 101 Workshop: The USDOT’s Professional Capacity Building Program offers a workshop on connected vehicles. Instructors describe the connected vehicle concept, provide the latest on connected vehicle research, report on the model deployment in Ann Arbor, and offer insights on the NHTSA initiative to begin a V2V rulemaking process and ultimately plan to require the life-saving technology to be installed in all new cars and light trucks.
  • Connected Vehicle 102 Workshop: This course, offered by the PCB program, builds on the Connected Vehicle 101 workshop by providing additional details about future V2V and V2I applications. It describes initial considerations for deploying the enabling technology.
  • ITS ePrimer: Module 13: Connected Vehicles in the ITS ePrimer describes the background, current activities, and future direction of the connected vehicle initiative. The module examines the anticipated roles and responsibilities of the principal participants; the major technologies and systems development efforts; the range of expected applications of the connected vehicle system; the potential institutional, policy, legal, and funding challenges facing the initiative; and the expected development and deployment timeline for a connected vehicle environment.

You can also visit the ITS JPO Website to learn more about the USDOT’s connected vehicle research and initiatives. Sign up for our e-mail blasts, Twitter, and Facebook to receive the latest news and updates.