How Smart Cars Will Make Roads Safer
According to the United States Department of Transportation's National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2.4 million vehicle-related injuries occurred in the U.S. in 2012, as reported by police. Of these, 33,561 were fatal. Not only do these numbers represent a tragic loss of human life, they have steep economic costs as well. In 2012, productivity losses, property damage, and medical costs related to motor vehicle crashes exceeded $80 billion. This equates to nearly $400 per licensed driver in the U.S.
In response to these concerns, the Department of Transportation (DoT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are actively pursuing programs to increase vehicle safety. Along these lines, the DoT and NHTSA are mandating the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems. It is expected that V2V technology will become standard in all new vehicles before 2020.
How does V2V work?
V2V communications is comprised of a wireless network, using dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), so that vehicles are able to “speak” to each other. Vehicles equipped with this technology will broadcast information to their surroundings, which other V2V-equipped vehicles can then receive. This includes information about speed, location, direction of travel, and more.
Highways of the future will be covered in a web of V2V devices, where each node (vehicle, smart traffic signal, etc.) can send, receive, and retransmit signals. Signals bounced between vehicles could warn drivers of upcoming traffic issues like congestion, accidents, road work, or inclement weather conditions.
As it stands, V2V warnings might be broadcast to the driver as an alert in the form of a flashing red light or beeping noise. It might go as far as indicating the direction of the threat as well. The way that this technology is implemented remains fluid, since V2V is still a concept with many active prototypes.
V2V technology is expected to reduce the number of motor vehicle collisions related to stop lights, blind spots, “no passing” areas, and drunk drivers. In fact, the NHTSA claims that with V2V technology, more than half a million yearly left-turn and intersection collisions alone could be avoided.
The DoT has asserted that V2V technology will help drivers with the following:
- Vehicle blind spots
- Collision warnings
- Brake warnings
- “No passing” warnings
- Intersection collision avoidance (including movement assistance)
- Approaching emergency vehicle warnings
- Electronic parking and toll payments
- Commercial vehicle clearance and safety inspections
- Information about traffic and travel conditions
What about security?
While V2V technology offers a host of safety protocols, it also presents an unprecedented challenge in security. The sheer expanse of V2V networks gives rise to this complex problem. If human drivers come to rely heavily on the benefits offered by V2V connectivity, what will happen when this system is suddenly compromised? The potential outcomes of security breaches could be fatal.
With this in mind, after examining several alternatives, the NHTSA has settled on an asymmetric Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) encryption system to secure the V2V network. PKI is designed to transmit secure communications over public networks. It relies on the use of digital signatures to verify the identity of a user. As such, the PKI system creates and manages digital certificates for each device, with the ability to revoke certificates as needed.
While PKI systems are widely used today, their proposed use by the NHTSA is vastly more complex than any of their standard applications. Discovering how to implement this security system remains a challenge for digital security companies, but future developments are likely to resolve this concern.