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DSRC from roadside beacons can provide plenty of information to help cars navigate.

As V2I evolves, costs, maintenance concerns emerge

The National Traffic & Highway Safety Administration hasn’t yet mandated vehicle to infrastructure communications (V2I), but proponents are pressing forward in a technology that they contend will become a mainstay for autonomous vehicles. As the technology matures, paying for a roadside infrastructure is becoming a key issue.

Tuesday at SAE's WCX17, panelists from federal and state agencies provided their perspectives on V2I Deployment, discussing challenges and describing some of the on-highway tests in Michigan, New York City and Wyoming. Those programs have proven the robustness and viability of the technology, prompting panelists to predict that dedicated short range communications between vehicles and roadside infrastructure stations can bring major safety improvements and reduce congestion.

V2I is expected to be a necessity for autonomous vehicles, since roadside beacons can provide information that augments data supplied by on-vehicle sensors. While expressing optimism that NHTSA will mandate DSRC’s inclusion on vehicles and roadside towers, they are concerned that funding may be an issue. Tapping the private sector may be a solution.

“There’s no magical pile of money to fund V2I,” said Matthew Smith of the Michigan Dept. of Transportation. “Connected vehicles do not reduce the need for bridges or the need to fill potholes. We do have to turn to the private sector to see if we can leverage our data collection to offset some costs.”

While state and federal funds may help with initial installations, public service planners are also considering long term factors like updating software. Most panelists said over the air updating will be critical to provide ongoing security and cap costs.

“The most costly factor for installing and maintaining technology is labor,” said Mohamad Talas, NYC DOT Traffic Operation. “Software over the air updating will be a major benefit. Hardware also needs to be easy to replace and maintain.”

Attendees at the crowded session asked whether pending 5G cellular connections might displace DSRC. Panelists replied that V2I developers have worked for years to ensure that all U.S states and a number of foreign countries use similar technologies that have been tested in field trials. 5G suppliers do not even have a firm technology base at present.

“DSRC is available today, tests have proven that moving cars can communicate without latency issues,” said Blaine Leonard, Utah Department of Transportation. “We’re six to seven years from 5G having any impact. Additionally, DSRC is free. Will 5G providers broadcast roadside data for free?”

Panelists noted that if legislators at the state and federal levels understand the benefits of V2I, they will be more inclined to support funding for it. Carl Andersen of the Federal Highway Administration closed the afternoon by noting that constituents need to determine whether it’s worth the cost of a cappuccino to eliminate some of the 30,000 vehicles fatalities every year, reduce congestion and curtail the millions spent on collision repairs. If so, they should be contacting representatives regularly to encourage support.

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