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NHTSA V2V proposal suggests limits on DIY sales

Thursday, February 23, 2017 - 09:00
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The aftermarket will have to be an important contributor to the successful implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) safety messaging. But the proposed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in December both underlines that importance and at the same time raises questions about the viability of aftermarket sales.

NHTSA voices some skepticism about whether do-it-yourselfers should be able to buy V2V radios and antennas at retail and install them in their driveways. Rather, the agency indicates that the new FMVSS will specify that aftermarket installation will have to be done by certified installers.

"Whereas some vehicle owners may choose to replace their own brakes or install other components on their vehicles themselves, installation requirements for aftermarket V2V devices may not be conducive to a do-it-yourself approach," the agency says.

Once a standard becomes final, it would be phased in for OEMs beginning two years after issuance of a final rule and over the following three years at rates of 50 percent, 75 percent and 100 percent, respectively. But a key to the success of V2V adoption is less about V2V capabilities in new autos and more about the ability to develop a fairly quick critical mass of cars on the road with V2V capabilities, which means equipping autos already on the road.

The proposed rule states: "NHTSA does not wish to limit the development of different types of aftermarket devices, but we do seek to ensure that all devices participating in the system perform at a minimum or better performance level for V2V communication." NHTSA's suggestion that aftermarket V2V radios and antennas will not be allowed to be installed by do-it-yourselfers but instead by "certified" retailers could set the stage for a political battle between aftermarket retailers and automobile original equipment manufacturers, who are keen on keeping control of access to onboard data ports.

"We believe the sections on whether DIYers could install these devices and the need for certification need additional study," says Aaron Lowe, senior vice president, regulatory and government affairs, Auto Care Association. "Clearly, there are challenges in this area, but there always is a tendency to underestimate the abilities of consumers and technicians to take on these tasks. The auto care industry also will need to step up the plate with strong efforts to educate and train technicians and consumers."

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The new, proposed FMVSS No. 150 will require all new light vehicles to be capable of V2V communications, such that they will send and receive basic safety messages (BSMs) to and from other vehicles. The NHTSA proposal contains V2V communication performance requirements predicated on the use of on-board dedicated short-range radio communication (DSRC) devices to transmit BSMs about a vehicle’s speed, heading, brake status and other vehicle information to surrounding vehicles, and receive the same information from them.

However, NHTSA recognizes that some aftermarket products may not be able to populate optional BSM data elements if they do not have access to the auto's controller area network (CAN) bus. Aftermarket devices will therefore need to use other methods to populate elements needed to calculate vehicle position in order to support crash avoidance warnings. Some data elements, such as turn signal indication, will not be able to be derived from other methods. "As a result, the inability of some aftermarket devices to populate certain optional BSM data elements may impact the fidelity (ability to balance the level of false positive warnings) of safety applications that the aftermarket device supports," NHTSA says in the proposed rule.

Lowe says there is ongoing work to mitigate this challenge. "The Auto Care Association along with other aftermarket groups have been developing a Secure Vehicle Interface (SVI) that we think will be able to ensure communications for vehicles to talk to other vehicles, but still will allow the secure transmission of data to non-vehicle manufacturer entities as well," he says. "SVI can be used on new vehicle applications, but also could be used to retrofit the existing fleet."

The V2V era will present considerable opportunities for the aftermarket, but challenges appear on the road ahead.

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