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Passenger Vehicles, Commercial Trucks Could Soon be Required to Be Equipped with V2V Technology

For years, the promise of vehicle-to-vehicle communications has seemed just beyond the horizon. While V2V communications technology was first discussed by NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in August 2014, when it released a proposed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) concerning the need for vehicles to communicate. In fact, implementation of compatible V2V technologies is part of the federal government’s strategy that aims to eliminate all highway and traffic deaths within 30 years. Our truck accident lawyers explain below.

This goal came on the heels of the spike in traffic deaths during 2015. According to the NHTSA assessments, 2015 was the deadliest year for drivers and other motorists since 2008.  In fact, the number of people killed on roadways and highways throughout the U.S. soared 7.2% to 35,092 in 2015.

Part of the strategy to address this “crisis” includes the development and implementation of technology in the form of V2V systems. While current NHTSA proposals apply only to light, passenger vehicles, the inherent nature of any human or computer language means it is only useful when parties are able to understand each other. Therefore, due to the nature of NHTSA’s powers and how language works,  it is highly likely that NHTSA will use its light vehicle V2V mandate to phase-in V2V systems gradually before requiring commercial motor vehicle operators to retrofit trucks, buses, and other commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

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What Does the Proposed FMVSS No. 150 V2V Communication Rule Require?

Proposed federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) Number 150 would require all new light vehicles to come equipped with complaint V2V communications systems. Requirements set forth in proposed FMVSS 150 includes the ability to send and receive basic safety messages with other vehicles through the use of short-range radio technologies. Theoretically, vehicles that share information regarding speed, positioning, steering, hazards, and other roadway data can use this information to identify potential collisions and take action before an accident is inevitable.

As currently drafted, the V2V mandate applies to only new “light” vehicles. Light vehicles are typically defined to include most passenger vehicles including cars, SUVs, minivans, light pickup trucks, and other vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 10,000 pounds. New vehicles of this type would be required to come factory equipped with DSRC-based communications. DSRC-based communications transmitted within the 5.850 to 5.925 MHz band are governed by FCC 47 CFR Parts 0, 1, 2 and 95 for onboard equipment and Part 90 for roadside units. Messages transmitted over this frequency will be required to be authenticated through a public key infrastructure method. Furthermore, systems must be equipped with measures intended to detect and prevent alteration, tampering, malfunction, and other unexpected and undesired behaviors.

As currently proposed, NHTSA expects a final rule to be established in 2019. Based on a two-year waiting period occurring prior to a two-year phase-in period, one could reasonably expect this requirement to come into force no earlier than 2023.

Will V2V Mandates Apply to Commercial Trucks and Buses?

As the rule is currently drafted, it does not apply to commercial trucks or other commercial vehicles. However, this approach is likely by design. NHTSA and other interested parties is likely using its rulemaking authority to develop a common standard that will be widely adopted in the consumer sector. In fact, NHTSA seems to primarily justify its rulemaking on the premise that:

Most prominently, vehicles need to communicate a standard set of information to each other, using interoperable communications that all vehicles can understand. The ability of vehicles to both transmit and receive V2V communications from all other vehicles equipped with a V2V communications technology is referred to in this document as “interoperability,” and it is vital to V2V’s success. Without interoperability, manufacturers attempting to implement V2V will find that their vehicles are not necessarily able to communicate with other manufacturers’ vehicles and equipment, defeating the objective of the mandate and stifling the potential for innovation that the new information environment can create.

The agency also recognizes that the benefits of V2V technology will only become apparent when a “critical mass” of vehicles can communicate and share information. Thus, it is at least possible that NHTSA is banking on achieving critical mass through gradual year-over-year replacement of the commuter vehicle fleet.

Once critical mass approaches or is achieved, NHTSA can theoretically utilize its ability to mandate certain retrofits on commercial heavy-duty vehicles. Per 49 CFR 1.95, the Secretary’s authority under Section 101(f) of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (Pub. L. 106-159; Dec. 9, 1999) is delegated to NHTSA to promulgate safety standards for “commercial motor vehicles and equipment subsequent to initial manufacture.” Both NHTSA and FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are dually authorized to order retrofits for covered heavy-commercial vehicles.

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Thus, it is highly likely that V2V technologies will eventually become mandatory in all motor vehicles. However, NHTSA seems to want to roll the technology out in the consumer sector first. While some safety advocates are likely to oppose this more gradual approach, there is the possibility that it will make implementation easier to swallow for the trucking industry.

Contact a Pennsylvania Truck Accident Lawyer Today

First, trucking companies are aware that this is a stated goal of the U.S. Department of Transportation and its agencies. Thus, there is time to prepare and plan for these expected capital expenditures. Second, when commercial trucking companies do purchase the technology to retrofit vehicles, it is highly likely that sheer economies of scale coupled with proven designs will keep costs low. However, in the meanwhile, one application of this technology potentially able to prevent collisions involving 18-wheelers, dump trucks and other big rigs will go unrealized. Contact the right truck accident attorneys for your case today.

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