Jim Sayer: The Cost of Delaying DSRC

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Up to 8.1 million car crashes and 44,000 deaths could be prevented if the federal government mandated connected vehicle technology now, rather than waiting even three years to develop and evaluate competing technologies.

Connected vehicle technology has been demonstrated to dramatically improve safety on our roads and highways, and every year that we wait to put it in place, we're losing thousands of lives.

Given current crash, injury and fatality rates, the cumulative lost opportunity of not mandating Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) now represents roughly one full year's worth of fatalities, injuries and crashes that occur on U.S. roadways that could otherwise be prevented.

A recently published UMTRI white paper detailed the effect a delay would have:

  • A 3-year delay of 2022 could prevent 7.4 million-8.1 million crashes; 2.8 million-3.1 million injuries; and 40,717-44,558 deaths.
  • A 5-year delay of 2024 could prevent 12.6 million-13.6 million crashes; 4.8 million-5.1 million injuries; and 69,556-75,098 deaths.
  • A 7-year delay of 2026 could prevent 17.9 million-19.1 million crashes, 6.8 million-7.2 million injuries; 99,338-105,746 deaths.

This analysis clearly illustrates the negative consequences of waiting for the potential of a different communications solution. If, as a society, we keep waiting for something better to come along, we will always be in a waiting mode—and hence nothing will get deployed.

DSRC is the existing technology for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. This is not to suggest that DSRC is the only means of communication that should be considered, but rather that additional communication technologies could be used in combination with DSRC – whereby providing necessary redundancy.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed that DSRC be standard in all new light-duty vehicles. These rules, and the technology behind them, have been in the making for more than 20 years, when the Federal Communications Commission first set aside wireless spectrum to DSRC for transportation applications. The capability has undergone more than 10 years of testing around the country and across the globe. 

A newer technology, called C-V2X, is emerging from the cellular industry. Its supporters say it has a longer range and enhanced versatility. But the analysis clearly illustrates that delaying a mandate of DSRC results in lives lost that could otherwise be saved.  DSRC is ready for deployment today, C-V2X would need a yet-unknown amount of additional time to develop, test, propose standards and develop proposed rulemaking prior to deployment.

Read the analysis: The Cost in Fatalities, Injuries and Crashes Associated with Waiting to Deploy Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication

Jim Sayer is the Director of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI)