V2V Security Myths Debunked
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication: Will it Be Safe Enough by 2020?
Would you feel comfortable riding in a driverless car? Groups that identify as The New America Foundation and Public Knowledge requested an emergency stay on the use of dedicated short-range communications (“DSRC”) on the 5.9GHz spectrum. DSRC will become the standard architecture for traffic control and vehicle-to-vehicle (“V2V”) communications if the US Department of Transportation achieves its goal, and it has the backing of state transportation departments as well as the intelligent traffic industry.
These groups are concerned that V2V communication isn't safe enough for widespread application; however, the US Department of transportation estimates that implementing this architectural standard could prevent between 70% and 80% of accidents involving unimpaired drivers.
With that in mind, why would the government consider putting these plans for standardization on hold? There is a tug-of-war happening between the government's priority to use DSRC on the 5.9 GHz spectrum for safer transportation purposes—taking a step toward smart cities and smart traffic—and using that spectrum for faster wireless communication. But that is not the nature of today's public debate.
The larger discussion surrounds trusting vehicle safety rather than the allocation of government resources. To start, 94% of all accidents occur due to human error, encompassing distractions, exhaustion, recklessness, and impairment. It's an issue worth solving. The results are extremely promising so far.
Many of us are familiar with the fact that Google's self-driving cars have been in just over a dozen accidents, but nearly all cases were determined to have been caused by human drivers instead of the autonomous cars. Even one of the more recent cases involving a Google AV (a Lexus model) colliding with a bus happened while moving at 2 miles per hour. The bus was moving at 15 miles per hour, and did not yield as expected. There were no injuries.
It is safe to ride in self-driving cars, but there is room for improvement. Human drivers have also prevented Google cars from getting into accidents at least thirteen times. While that is not an acceptable figure in itself, context puts it into perspective.
For one it is a new technology. We will likely see cars communicating with each other on the road by 2020; while that four-year period does not seem like much to the non-expert, it is miles ahead of where many people think it is. 1.5 million miles to be more precise.
Staying with Google as a case study, we can see that the company has tested its cars across an extraordinary distance over the last seven years. Releasing a commercially available car to the public in 2020 would mark eleven years of road tests. If it takes another few years, then it's for the better. These cars will not reach production without proving to the world that they can provide a safety advantage over human drivers, and we are almost there after less than a decade.
Another important factor to note is that DSRC has been designed with security in mind from its inception. It is a creation of the digital age that puts trust and security above all else. It will only improve as time marches on.
What will the statistics look like in 2030? 2040? V2V communication is here to stay, and it already promises to make our roads better. Intelligent traffic systems—especially vehicles—will substantially reduce traffic accidents as one of the leading causes of death and injury in our society. Accidents will still happen, but they will be far, far fewer in number.
Every collision prevented will be worth the investment in standardizing the DSRC architecture and the 5.9 GHz spectrum for intelligent traffic control. When V2V communication becomes the norm, we may just put more trust in this system to drive than ourselves.
And when it comes to security, trust is the point.