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News Roundup: Volkswagen Unveils ‘Sedric,’ Its New Level 5 Autonomous Car, Truck Drivers Push Back Against Autonomous Trucks, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A look at some of the most interesting news to come out of the driverless transportation industry this week:

Volkswagen unveils ultra-modern-looking Level 5 autonomous car

No, this isn’t a giant Pokémon on wheels–it’s Volkswagen’s new fully autonomous concept car, named “Sedric” (a mashup of the term “self-driving car”), just unveiled this week. Volkswagen is hailing it as a Level 5 autonomous car, “capable of operating any driving mode in any environmental condition, allowing passengers to sit back and enjoy the ride.” The concept is evident by the car’s interior, designed to look more like a mobile lounge than the interior of a car. The car will be optimized for shared mobility, meaning passengers will have a “universal mobility ID” and be able to hail a Sedric from anywhere with their smartphones. Sedric will automatically recognize and remember each passenger when it arrives, allowing the passengers to talk to them in any language naturally, including with slang. Passengers will also be able to choose whether to look at the world passing by through the windshield, or choose entertainment like a movie or TV while they ride. Read more and see photos from SlashGear.

 

Trucking companies push back against autonomous trucks

The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security recently voiced its opposition to claims that autonomous trucks will soon take over the industry and cost truck drivers their jobs. Representatives say that the “accountability” of human drivers is too important to fully hand over to a machine, and that drivers should not be worried about losing their jobs to technology anytime soon, at least in the next few years. “A change to driverless vehicles will occur gradually–if at all,” the Alliance said recently. The organization represents major trucking companies like J.B. Hunt, Knight Transportation and KLLM Transportation, among others. “Truckers, after all, are not just operators but also cargo monitors and a key point of communication for logistics providers,” they explained. Read more from Supply Chain Dive.

 

Toyota unveils new autonomous concept car

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) unveiled its new autonomous concept car, called the Toyota Advanced Safety Research Vehicle (TASRV), at the company’s annual Prius Challenge in Sonoma, California recently. The vehicle consists of Toyota’s plug-and-play autonomous system on a Lexus LS 600hL. Toyota representatives say the “flexible” system will be easy to upgrade often as the technology continues to advance. The on-board technology in the TASRV “focuses heavily on machine vision and machine learning and includes an array of layered and overlapping LIDAR, radar and camera sensors that reduce the need to rely on high-definition maps.” Toyota reps said they believe the technology will have invaluable applications throughout the industry as it helps bring driverless technology to areas without high-definition mapping. The car will also be able to share data with and gathered from other cars. Read more from Kelley Blue Book.

News Roundup: Driverless Truck Delivers Beer 120 Miles Away, London Decides Not to Mark Self-Driving Cars for Fear of Bullying, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

A roundup of some of the most interesting headlines to come out of the industry this week:

London to test unmarked driverless cars for fear of ‘bullying’

Volvo is getting ready to kick off a test of around 100 cars in the UK capital of London in 2018–but many people may not even realize. That’s because British lawmakers fear that if motorists realize they are driving next to a self-driving car, they may decide to “bully” it by cutting it off, overtaking it with speed or other similar acts–at least, that’s what a recent research study suggested. Therefore, Volvo has decided not to mark the 4x4s they will be “loaning” to participants in any way, so they are indistinguishable from regular human-driven cars. London’s trial will be one of the world’s first to use public volunteers to test the self-driving cars. Read more from the Telegraph Observer.

 

Otto driverless truck makes 120-mile trip–to deliver beer

The Uber-owned driverless truck company Otto made history recently when it made a 120-mile journey from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs with its “driver” barely needing to touch the wheel at all. The truck delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer, and the driver was only needed to take the controls for on-ramps and freeway exits. The rest of the time? He was relaxing, monitoring the trip from a comfortable sleeper berth in the back of the truck. Otto representatives are calling the trip a big success. Read more from Automotive News.

 

Toyota makes big investment in car-sharing service

Toyota has invested $10 million in the on-demand car-sharing company Getaround, based in San Francisco. Getaround operates much like the “Airbnb of cars,” allowing car owners to rent out their cars on an on-demand basis for an hourly or daily rate. The service boasts around 200,000 members and has been operating in San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C. and a few other U.S. cities since 2013. Getaround promises up to $1 million of insurance coverage to every renter and owner, and says car owners can make up to an extra $10,000 of annual income by offering up their cars when they’re not using them. Read more about Toyota’s investment in Getaround from Reuters.

Courtesy Image: Otto self-driving truck

News Roundup: Toyota Spending Millions on Driverless Research at UMich, Tesla Fatality Could Actually Speed Up Self-Driving Progress, and More

Jennifer van der Kleut

Toyota to spend millions on AI, robotics and driverless car research at University of Michigan

Just months after Toyota spent $1 billion to create the Toyota Research Institite (TRI) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the company announced it is spending another $22 million to work with neighboring University of Michigan on research into artificial intelligence, robotics, and self-driving cars. Specifically, the announcement indicates the money will be spent over a period of four years and will focus on the areas of enhanced driving safety, partner robotics and indoor mobility, autonomous driving and student learning and diversity, as well as mobility solutions for the disabled and elderly. Read more about the announcement from The Detroit News.

How the recent Tesla Autopilot fatality could actually speed up autonomous car development

The news was tragic when, in June, a man was killed when his car ran into a white tractor-trailer that his Tesla Autopilot system failed to differentiate from the reflection of the bright white sky on his windshield. In fact, Tesla had three highly-publicized crashes involving its Autopilot system in just two months this year. However, some industry analysts now believe those crashes, and that one tragic fatality, may actually speed up progress toward the development and launch of autonomous vehicles. Representatives from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) say what engineers can learn from such accidents can help improve the technology’s efficiency exponentially–and the desire to do so will be led by the still-great need to help millions of people around the world who have trouble getting around. Read more about industry analysts’ predictions on such matters in The Conversation.

Honda partners with Indian company L&T Technologies on IoT, autonomous drive products

Larson & Turbo Technologies (L&T) announced this week it is partnering with Honda and “betting big” on IoT, electric-powered and autonomous drive technologies. L&T has invested billions setting up several new labs focusing on the research and development of such technology. In particular, its new lab in Dublin, Ohio could help significantly boost their autonomous vehicle work. Read more from the Dublin Villager and Economic Times.

 

Ridesharing Galore: Here Come the Auto OEMs

Dominique Bonte

There’s been an avalanche of ridesharing announcements from auto OEMs in the last seven months:

  • BMW & Scoop– BMW iVentures venture capital arm announced an investment of an undisclosed amount in California-based carpooling service Scoop Technologies.
  • Volkswagen & Gett– VW is investing $300 million in Israel-based, low-cost ridesharing player Gett, which is active in more than 60 cities worldwide, including London, Moscow, and New York.
  • Toyota & Uber– Mainly a strategic partnership with a MoU to explore cooperation, but Toyota also announced an undisclosed investment from Toyota Financial Services Corporation and Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership.
  • Apple & Didi Chuxing– Auto OEM in the making? Apple splashing out $1 billion on Uber rival Didi Chuxing (which itself took a stake in Lyft earlier this year).
  • GM & Lyft– GM invested $500 million in Lyft, then said it would launch the autonomous Chevy Bolt taxi based on technology from GM-owned Cruise Automation.
  • nuTonomy & Ford – Driverless car-sharing company nuTonomy raising $16 million through Ford Chairman Bill Ford.

This starts looking like a gold rush, with major auto OEM brands hurrying to partner with the leading car-sharing initiatives, taking the competition to another level by helping them increase their respective ridesharing market shares.

Clearly, the major automotive brands are afraid to miss the boat on ridesharing. Any remaining independent ridesharing outfit must be looking at this trend, greedily waiting for other car brands to move in.

In the margins of this, the ridesharing paradigm keeps evolving at full speed, either adding functionality like Lyft’s Scheduled Rides or increasing safety, with Uber China testing Face++ facial recognition technology to check driver identification.

At the same time, controversy around the on-demand economy is not expected to calm down any time soon. Local initiatives like non-profit RideAustin trying to fill in the ridesharing void left by Uber and Lyft is testimony to the ongoing legal turmoil.

AUTO OEMS SHIFT TO RIDESHARING

Remarkably, auto OEMs seem to be taking a 180-degree turn: from traditional first-generation car sharing, in which many OEMs have invested by setting up their own operations or JVs in the past years (Daimler car2go, BMW DriveNow, Ford partnering with Zipcar), toward taking stakes in ridesharing ventures.

It seems they finally realize “car sharing 1.0” is not scalable, and instead, must move to “car sharing 2.0,” a.k.a. ridesharing. And they are already looking toward the “car sharing 3.0” era of driverless taxis.

Visit ABI Research for more from Dominique Bonte.

While auto OEMs could still own and control first-generation car sharing, in ridesharing they are relegated to a role of minority investors, which still allows them to have a front row seat to observe the dynamics of the unfolding car-sharing economy.

How serious are auto OEMs about embracing the car-sharing paradigm, killing their own century-old, ownership-based business model? Don’t they still want to sell (more) vehicles?

Lyft_PressKit_04Or, are they starting to understand the ultimate transformative paradigm shift their industry will go through: from business-to-consumer to business-to-business commercial models?

In the future, vehicles will no longer be sold directly to consumers but to fleets of shared, electric, driverless cars. It’s hard to think of a more transformative transition.

It becomes increasingly clear that the high-tech vehicles of the future will only thrive in an automotive industry dominated by on-demand business models.

SMART MOBILITY AS A SERVICE

A never-ending series of consumer surveys keeps pointing out that consumers are not really interested in electric or autonomous vehicles.

What they are interested in is simple: convenient, safe, and affordable transportation. In other words, they want “mobility as a service.” Consumers will embrace electrification and autonomy, not as owners, but as users of seamless ride-hailing services.

It is pointless to position automotive technology with consumers; the focus should be on the service. And it seems this message is finally hitting home in the boardrooms of auto OEMs.

Whether future auto OEMs will run their own car-sharing fleets or sell their vehicles to Uber-like organizations doesn’t really matter.

They will have to exit the consumer car-selling business in both cases, either turning into service organizations or supplying vehicles to third-party mobility providers.

The message for the automotive industry is becoming clear: aim for “smart mobility as a service” and all the (technology) pieces of the puzzle will fall into place. It is possible we have just witnessed the very first evidence of the start of this new era, with Toyota joining forces with Uber.

For more information, visit ABI Research.

March Brings Takeover Fever to Driverless Tech

Burney Simpson

The Ides of March brought a number takeovers and company investments in the driverless world. LiDAR sensors are particularly hot. Here’s a roundup.

GM could be paying as much as $1 billion for Cruise Automation, a firm best known for retrofitting autonomous technology to Audi vehicles.

Why is that worth $1 billion? The assumption being that Cruise has got something much bigger that GM wants.

But Cruise is playing it quiet. Its public website is virtually empty, except for the line ‘Cruise + General Motors  Join the Driverless Revolution.’ Click thru and you see more than a dozen job listings for positions that will help deliver whatever it is GM wants.

Silicon Valley-based Toyota Research Institute brought on board the entire 16-member staff of Jaybridge Robotics, a spinoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jaybridge has been a supplier to the industrial and agriculture industries.

Jaybridge CEO Jeremy Brown said in a press release that the two would focus on reducing traffic accidents. That certainly narrows it down.

HI-RES FLASH LIDAR

Germany-based Tier 1 supplier Continental bought the automotive division of Advanced Scientific Concepts, provider of 3D LiDAR cameras and sensors. Price not disclosed.

Santa Barbara, Calif.-based ASC claims its hi-res flash LiDAR can ‘see’ through dust, fog and other real-world problems that might obscure the road.

Continental said in a release that the purchase would help it to “mass produce flash LiDARS at an affordable price” for the commercial auto industry.

ASC engineers will join the Chassis & Safety Division of Continental in Santa Barbara, led by Arnaud Lagandre, and it might grow to have 100 engineers.

(By the way, the graphic for this story is by Continental.)

One more for 2016, and we’re still in March.

Sensata, a Netherlands-based global parts supplier, ‘partnered’ with Quanergy to help it expand sales of its LiDAR sensors. Quanergy this January launched a LiDAR device that costs $250, compared with the high-end product from Velodyne that costs thousands.

BUILDING ON 2015 BUYS

That helps us to transition to 2015 because Quanergy received an investment from Tier 1 supplier Delphi last year.

These Tier 1 guys will sell so many LiDAR devices that the price will go down, right?

Delphi also purchased Ottomatika, a Carnegie Mellon spin off that develops autonomous driving software.

Lear Corp. bought Arada Systems, the Troy, Mich.-based supplier of Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2X), and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications systems.

Lear, a supplier of automotive seating and electrical distributions systems, last year also swallowed Autonet Mobile for its telematics and apps services (See “Lear’s Arada Buy Expands V2X Line”).

And don’t forget that GM made its $500 million investment in ride-sharing firm Lyft (See “GM Invests Half a Billion in Lyft for Autonomous Car Network”).

Does this mean GM is planning for a world where consumers stop buying cars, and instead rely on Uber, Lyft, public transportation, bikes, i.e. Mobility as a Service, to get around?

Maybe, though it’s more likely GM is preparing for whatever the unpredictable consumer wants.

Right now, things are changing so fast, there’s no telling what we’ll see in 10 years.

Toyota’s Crash Test Bike Braves Autonomous Cars

Burney Simpson

Cyclists are a challenge to driverless vehicles so Toyota has created a crash test bike and rider that mimic the real thing.

Just a month ago the head of one of the largest auto OEMs in the world caused a mini-firestorm when he said bicycles are a pain in the butt for his firm as it develops autonomous vehicles.

“One of the biggest problems is people with bicycles,” Carlos Ghosn, chief of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, told CNBC at the CES 2016 last month. “The car is confused by them because from time-to-time they behave like pedestrians and from time-to-time they behave like cars.”

He concluded, “They don’t respect any rules usually.”

Those issues spurred Toyota engineers at its Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center (TCSRC) to create a crash test bike and bike rider.

Toyota’s bike is shatter-resistant and built in parts that can be quickly fit back together. It is modeled on a 26-inch mountain bike, the most popular type in the U.S., according to Cycling Weekly.

Steve, the pedestrian and cycling crash test dummy, has legs that appear to go around like a cyclists. And Steve has a covering that appears to be human skin to the sensors in autonomous vehicles.

In addition, the bike ‘rides’ on a platform that allows for collisions up to 38 miles-per-hour.

Toyota plans to release media on the test bike and dummy in April at the World Congress of the Society of Automotive  Engineers in Detroit.

Both Renault and Toyota have committed to creating and marketing self-driving cars by 2020.

Toyota is working to have the cars available for the Tokyo Summer Olympics to be held that year. Renault announced it would release its first semi-autonomous car this year, and have a fully autonomous vehicle ready by 2020.

In 2011 Toyota committed $50 million over five years for the TCSRC and has partnered with 16 universities, agencies and research institutions on 26 projects on auto safety research.

Photo of Bicycling on Dearborn Street bike lane, 2012, by Steve Vance.

Automakers: You Wouldn’t Want to Rent an iPhone, So You Probably Won’t Want to Hire an Autonomous Car, Either

Jennifer van der Kleut

CNBC recently interviewed executives from top automakers working on autonomous car technology, and they say they’re not as worried about the threat of ridesharing companies like Uber as one might think they should be.

Representatives from OEMs like Nissan-Renault and Volvo say in the future, your autonomous car will be just as personalized as your smartphone–and for that reason, they predict you’d rather own one than hire one.

“People use a car for many other things [than just transportation] and with the connectivity coming, the car is going to become a kind of working space, it’s going to become a living space,” Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Renault-Nissan, said during a CNBC technology event.

“Because if in the car you can connect, interface, video conference… it becomes your own space, you’re going to have your own photos, your own email, your own music, your own calls, your own everything. It becomes like your iPhone, you want something belonging to you,” he continued.

Klas Bendrik, chief information officer at Volvo Cars, told CNBC he thinks it will depend on the area one is in.

“You have a different transportation need when you go from the cities to the suburban areas, and if you go to the countryside you have a different transportation need,” Blendrik said, adding that ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft may make sense in “mega-cities,” he thinks personalized autonomous cars will prove much more attractive in suburban and other areas.

While countless automakers and tech firms alike have said they believe autonomous car technology as the safest option in the future, and will be the preferred mode of transportation for millions in the future, opinions still appear to be varied as to when we can expect it to be widely available.

While some companies like Tesla and Google appear to be in a race to see who can get it to mass market first, even before 2020 rolls around, others like Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi seem to be taking the road a little slower to truly perfect the technology.

Toyota has publicly said that at this time, they still believe humans have better instincts than auto software, and that there are still significant hurdles to overcome before the technology is ready for mass market.

Mitsubishi has made no secret of the fact that they are not rushing to get an autonomous car on the road, though they are working on it. Their first priority is improving safety, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Ford appears to making significant progress, becoming the first to test their driverless and connected-car technology at the Mcity testing ground in Michigan, and the first to test their driverless cars in heavy winter snow and ice.

Ford has also famously partnered with Google on driverless car technology, pairing their cars with Google’s software–and some think the partnership could go beyond driverless cars as well.

See CNBC’s interviews with automakers like Nissan-Renault and Volvo on their website.

CES ’16: Toyota Discusses the Hardest Part of Developing Autonomous Car Technology

Jennifer van der Kleut

Toyota is looking to join the autonomous car race, as is obvious by the fact that they have invested $50 billion in the Toyota Research Institute (TRI), with facilities near their partners Stanford on the west coast, and MIT in the east.

At CES 2016 this week, Dr. Gill Pratt, CEO of TRI, discussed the biggest obstacle automakers like Toyota are facing in developing the safest and most efficient autonomous technology.

During his talk, AutoWeek reported, Pratt said it’s fairly easy to anticipate erratic behavior from pedestrians or cyclists, and to program an autonomous car to act accordingly. But how does one anticipate that which cannot be anticipated?

One example he offered was debris falling off a truck–should a car treat the debris like a pedestrian or cyclist, or like another car? What if the debris breaks into many pieces when it hits the ground–is it then like many pedestrians, or many cars? What is the best way for autonomous car to react and respond?

Pratt said automakers struggle with such scenarios, and others “we haven’t thought of yet.”

Toyota has been wowing crowds at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) this week by showing off a few concept machines that demonstrate its work in hydrogen power, USA Today reports.

In the autonomous car field, the automaker has an exhibit at the show that features small, model-sized autonomous cars driving around a miniature fake cityscape. The exhibit shows off the progress the automaker is making in connected-car technology, working toward allowing cars to communicate with each other on the road without any human interaction.

AutoWeek reports that TRI is currently focusing on two main projects–“Uncertainty on Uncertainty” and “The Car Can Explain.”

The “Uncertainty” project focuses on anticipating unforeseen circumstances such as the theoretical debris fall mentioned above.

“The Car Can Explain” aims to ask an autonomous car why it responded to an incident a particular way.

“Autonomous cars have the power to make life or death decisions, so they must be capable of explaining those decisions,” AutoWeek reports he said in his CES talk. “When the car does something unexpected, it needs to tell us exactly why that happened. Cars will become more intelligent in that way.”

Pratt said Toyota already has millions of autonomous car miles under its belt, but its goal is trillions, as Toyota cars reportedly drive approximately one trillion miles per year around the world.

“We may be 95 percent of the way to full autonomy, but that doesn’t mean the last 5 percent will be as easy as the first 95 percent,” Pratt reportedly said. “It’s like climbing a mountain, where the final ascent is the hardest.”

 

Cars You Can Expect to See at CES 2016 in January

Jennifer van der Kleut

Cars have long been taking over the annual Consumer Electronics Show. While the show was once used as a way to show off the latest performance enhancements, it is now more about the latest connectivity, technology and driver assistance features, including autonomous drive.

As we near showtime in January, news outlets like AutoWeek, CNet and CleanTechnica are giving a preview of what auto companies will be unveiling or talking about during the show:

Ford Motor Co. (Official Show Vehicle): The Ford Mustang GT will be the Official Show Vehicle, and Ford Kia Soul EV be showing off its electronics and connectivity. They are also expected to be discussing autonomous vehicle research, such as the driverless Fusion Hybrids they are currently testing at Mcity in Michigan.

Chevrolet: Chevy is expected to unveil the full production-ready version of the electric Bolt at CES, after a preview version garnered a lot of attention at the Detroit Auto Show earlier in 2015.

General Motors: CEO Mary Barra will give a keynote speech entitled “Redefining Personal Mobility.” The company has declared GM will be the undisputed leader in autonomous cars.

Kia: Kia is expected to show off its autonomous Soul EV.

Hyundai: Hyundai is expected to show off its autonomous, fuel-cell-powered Tuscon.

Mercedes: Mercedes has been a little more mysterious about what it plans to show off, after making headlines showing off its F 015 concept car at last year’s show. Industry analysts speculate Mercedes could unveil its Concept Intelligence Aerodynamic Automobile, or at least a rendering of it, or perhaps its autonomous electric E200 and E300 vehicles.

Faraday Future: The somewhat illusive electric carmaker that analysts are comparing to Tesla has already promised to unveil its first car at the show, which it promises to have in production by 2017.

Toyota: Toyota is expected to debut a new map-generating system, which AutoWeek believes will be similar to Google Maps.

Volkswagen: VW is expected to debut a new electric car. Some rumors say it could be the long-awaited electric microbus.

Audi: Audi is expected to unveil its A8 with autonomous driving capabilities. Audi made headlines last year when its autonomous A7 “drove” itself from Palo Alto, Calif. to Vegas for the show.

AutoWeek says the total number of automotive companies exhibiting at CES is around 12, which is a record, and that a whopping 10 percent of exhibitor space is devoted to car companies.

AutoWeek also reports that CES will feature 10 Tier 1 suppliers, including Valeo, Visteon, Qualcomm, Autoliv, Bosch, Continental and, for the 20th year in a row, Delphi.

Each V2I Site Could Cost $51,650

Burney Simpson

The cost to deploy a single Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) roadside site could average over $50,000 but the costs for installing a national network of sites remains unclear, according to a General Accountability Office (GAO) report.

In addition, the development of a national V2I and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) infrastructure faces a number of challenges, topped by the need for greater data communication capabilities to handle the system’s Wi-Fi needs.

The GAO released last month “Intelligent Transportation Systems: Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technologies Expected to Offer Benefits but Deployment Challenges Exist.” (Visit here for a summary).

The average cost of a single V2I site could reach $51,650 which would cover planning, equipment, installation, connectivity, and signal upgrades, the GAO determined. That would not include routine maintenance, staff training, equipment replacement, and security costs. A device might need to be replaced every five to 10 years.

The largest cost by far would be for backhaul, which covers the establishing of communication connectivity between the roadside unit and back offices or traffic management centers, along with fiber optic cables, sensors and relays. The GAO broke down the average costs as:

Planning & design:  $6,650

Equipment:               $7,450

Installation:               $3,550

Backhaul:                  $30,800

Signal upgrades:       $3,200

The single site cost can’t be extrapolated to a local, state, or national cost because “current cost data for V2I technology are limited due to the small number of test deployments thus far,” the GAO reports.

For instance. test bed deployments have varied in size, and different applications – a busy four-way intersection vs. a single-lane curve speed warning – may require different equipment.

One of the goals of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s just begun Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment Project is to determine cost estimates for 56 V2I applications in three locations — New York City, Tampa, and Wyoming.

The payoffs on this investment could be huge. Since 2011, Japan has installed

about 55,000 pieces of V2I equipment on local roads, and 1,600 pieces on expressways, the GAO reported. Japan claims it has cut accident rates and reduced congestion which brought lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In the U.S., an installed V2I and V2V system could prevent 59 percent of single-vehicle crashes and 29 percent of multi-vehicle crashes, which engender costs of more than $200 billion annually, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

DSRC CHALLENGE

The biggest challenge facing the rollout of V2I and V2V technology is the capability of the radiofrequency spectrum that is now devoted to transportation safety communications, according to a survey of the 21 subject matter experts that contributed to the GAO study.

In brief, the 5.9 Gigahertz (GHz) band was set aside for Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) systems, a wireless technology that allows vehicles and infrastructure to communicate over a range of about 1,000 feet, the GAO reports.

A V2V-equipped vehicle can use DSRC to share data about 10 times per-second on its speed, position, heading, acceleration, size, and braking with surrounding vehicles and road infrastructure.

The DOT has insisted the 5.9 band remain exclusive for V2I, V2V and other traffic-oriented communications. (For its part, Japan tested its 700 MHz band for sharing capability and decided to keep it devoted to V2I and V2V communications.)

However, growing demand for spectrum for Wi-Fi from consumers, businesses, and state and local governments has spurred the Federal Communications Commission to investigate whether it’s feasible to share the 5.9 band. The FCC oversees spectrum use by nonfederal users.

The GAO found that there are two important non-government efforts looking into technology that would allow for sharing of the 5.9 band:

GM has publicly committed that its 2017 Model Year Cadillac CTS vehicles will have DSRC technology. That would translate into DSRC-capable vehicles for sale to the public as soon as the third quarter of 2016.

The GAO wrote its report at the request of Rep. Larry Bucshon, an Indiana Republican, Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, and Rep. Daniel Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat. Bucshon is on the House Energy & Commerce Committee; Comstock and Lipinski are on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

Installing a V2I and V2V infrastructure will be a huge task. A number of DOT pilots now in the works won’t be done until 2020, and the agency estimates that even by 2025 only 20 percent of intersections will be V2I capable. For now, the goal is to have 80 percent of intersections V2I capable by 2040.