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USDOT's next big experiment - connected vehicle pilot deployment

In my previous column, I mentioned USDOT’s Connected Vehicle (CV) Pilot Deployment program to establish several real-world deployments. The goal of these pilots is to demonstrate how CVs, generating vast amounts of data, can contribute to greater operational efficiencies for our roads.

The establishment of these sites is very important for the growth of the CV industry. These sites will become environments of innovation for technologies, applications and business models. These sites will provide a glimpse into the future on what a CV ecosystem can provide. And while the program being set up in 2015 may show only incremental improvements, it positions the industry for something much greater in 2017, when the feds initiate the second round of CV pilot deployments. By then, technology will be that much further along, the industry will have had more time to consider additional innovative applications, and travelers and road operators will have established more of a comfort level with the evolving CV capability and services.

Each site that gets selected is expected to establish a sustainable business model that extends beyond the federal funding. Sites are to become seeds for organic growth that also exhibit capability that has national relevance. Said another way, they are intended to operate without federal support and provide confidence to other locations that may be thinking of doing the same but may not want to be on the ‘bleeding edge’.

Another interesting aspect of the CV Deployment Pilot program is that while it does not have any direct bearing on the NHTSA path toward regulation on DSRC, it does converge with this effort in a way that may be beneficial from the business model perspective. According to NHTSA’s current plan, a mandate on the technology could begin around 2020. Coincidentally, the CV Pilot Deployment program concludes in 2020 as well. One of the issues with a successful launch of the DSRC is how do customers get value from the technology when it first comes out? The NHTSA regulation on DSRC pertains only to V2V safety and there won’t be enough market penetration of the V2V technology to enable any noticeable benefits immediately. So, OEMs are concerned customers will think they are paying for something that has no immediate value. However, if they bundle the DSRC with other CV communications (cellular, wi-fi, satellite, etc), customers will get day-one benefits, albeit mostly from non-DSRC capability. And as DSRC penetration grows over time (both across the vehicle fleet and with the infrastructure), consumers will benefit from the additional capability and new services offered for many years to come.

The connected vehicle environment is on the cusp of an industry explosion. While we hear things now and again about new developments in this area, it’s the things we’re not hearing about (yet) that will be truly exciting. The year 2020 will be a time of major convergence for the CV industry. And I didn’t even mention ‘connected automation’…

Mike Schagrin is former program manager for the ITS Connected Vehicle Safety and Vehicle Automation research programs at the USDOT’s ITS Joint Program Office. Mike has now established Schagrin Consulting International, supporting clients in connected and automated vehicles.mike@schagrin-consulting.com

Illustration: Ian Parratt, the-caricatureartist.co.uk

 

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