As an occasional rider of the rails in the U.K., I am charmed by the unusual station names. Unfortunately my exposure is limited for the most part to the short run from Euston Station in London to Milton Keynes – the planned city regarded with great disdain by most Brits.
The station names – Bletchley, Leighton Buzzard, Cheddington, Tring, Barkhamsted – have the ring of old Monty Python sketches and conjure images of villages and towns with welcoming pubs and narrow, two-lane roads shouldered with thick shrubbery. It’s very comforting and familiar and enough to cause one to nod off – even if the trip is brief.
I recently had a run into London from Milton Keynes early in the morning followed by a late evening return to MK. The trip into town was approximately 30 minutes, but when the return seemed to be taking longer and the station names appeared to be unfamiliar I began to panic. Had I fallen asleep and missed my station?
Unfamiliar station names can be charming, but not if they are marking an errant journey to distant corners of Old Blighty. I became convinced, when the train stopped in Tring (a station I had only previously passed by and never stopped at) that I had definitely slept through the MK stop and was headed for parts unknown.
I alit in Cheddington, only to discover instantly, after the train had departed, that I had, indeed, not reached MK yet. The experience reminded me of the wisdom of not taking the first train to one’s destination, but, rather, assessing the travel times for all available trains. The fastest train to MK from Euston is about a 30 minute trip – but take the local train and the same trip will take an hour.
This little personal tale comes to my mind as I ponder President Obama’s dilemma regarding a mandate for implementation of a vehicle-to-vehicle system in the U.S. Nearly $1B has been spent on research and development of V2V technology, but after nearly 20 years not a single car has entered service on American roads with the technology expected to someday (decades in the future) prevent 80% of collisions.
President Obama is expected to move the mandate forward in spite of the onset of 5G technology which promises to far surpass existing V2V technology, based on dedicated spectrum and a narrowly defined protocol. President Obama is likely making the same mistake I made selecting MK trains from Euston Station in London. He is taking the first available train, not realizing that he is doubling the length of time it will take before life-saving outcomes are achieved.
China and Europe are decoupling from the V2V mandate process and shifting their emphasis to 5G development and deployment – with LTE-V2V wireless technology seen as a useful interim step to enabling collision avoidance applications in consumer vehicles. The path to 5G, once thought to be many years away, is gathering speed and momentum with tests and standards development being led from Europe and China – most recently manifested in the creation of the 5G Automotive Association dominated by German auto makers.
Unlike the V2V technology embraced by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the lobbyists from ITS America and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the evolving 5G standard is being developed in close cooperation between the automotive and wireless industries. The next evolutionary step in wireless technology is being honed to suit the needs of the automotive industry with a particular emphasis on enabling advanced collision avoidance systems.
In a recent report, 5G Americas assessed the shortcomings of DSRC in great detail concluding:
“Currently there’s no activity in the IEEE 802.11 standards to study a next-generation DSRC technology that will meet the requirements of more advanced V2X use cases such as automated vehicles. At the time of its design, DSRC was a good fit for the identified need of car-to-car communications. However, as vehicle and communication technology progressed, more advanced use cases arose, with requirements that DSRC cannot meet. The DSRC story could be similar to that of cellular 2G: well suited for the most prevalent application—voice traffic—when first specified, and later in need of a significant redesign in order to accommodate data, which has been the flagship service for 3G then 4G. In a similar way, new and challenging use cases will likely require a new technology or technology evolution for V2X communication.”
5G Americas Report: “V2X Cellular Solutions” – http://tinyurl.com/j8k56ej
In other words, should President Obama, as expected, move forward on the DSRC mandate before leaving office he will lock the U.S. into the implementation of an expensive and inferior solution incapable of being modified or updated to serve the goals now being ascribed to its implementation. With such a mandate the American driving public and the car makers themselves will be left gazing from the window of the train at unfamiliar station names and wondering if they somehow missed their station – while the express train to V2V-ville blasts by rattling those same windows.
Europe and China, appear to be boarding that express train to V2V vehicle connectivity. General Motors executives were recently quoted pleading with Chinese regulators to adopt the U.S. V2V protocols. These pleas, which are made in the context of GM delaying the launch of V2V in China, are likely to fall on deaf ears.
Even in the best case scenario of a global implementation of V2V tech based on the U.S. specification, it is expected that integration of the cellular wireless network and infrastructure will be necessary to enable the most advanced features and functions. In other words, DSRC will ultimately come to depend on cellular infrastructure one way or another to be even partially successful.
Europe, meanwhile, has adopted its own flavor of the V2V/DSRC standard but in a non-compulsory manner. The commercial fleet industry is seeing the most rapid adoption of the technology, while passenger car makers from Volvo to Daimler are turning to cellular networks for V2V connectivity anticipating a cellular-based V2V future.
It would seem that enough money has been wasted in a vain pursuit of a flawed V2V protocol in the U.S. It’s not too late for the U.S. to catch the express train… or is it?