By Rep. Daniel Lipinski
Connected and autonomous vehicle technologies are arriving on the market at a rapid rate. However, there is much more work to be done, both on the automotive side and in the infrastructure that will support connected and autonomous vehicles on roads and in cities, before these technologies can be fully implemented. The U.S. is arriving at a crossroads on connected vehicle technologies, and our decisions now will have huge ramifications on the future of transportation and American economic competitiveness.
As a member of both the Science, Space and Technology Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been doing as much as I can to push the federal government to assist state and local governments, university researchers, and the private sector in bringing about this connected vehicle revolution as quickly and safely as possible. In July, I introduced the Future TRIP Act, which would help establish a connected and autonomous vehicle research center, require a report on the readiness of the Department of Transportation for connected vehicles, and set up an interagency working group to coordinate research, technology commercialization and workforce development in this space. These items were included in the House surface transportation bill that passed the House earlier this month, and I hope to include them in the conference report in the weeks ahead.
The benefits of connected vehicle technologies are difficult to overstate. Every year, more than 30,000 Americans die in automotive accidents. Connected and autonomous vehicles could improve on this number dramatically, and not just with early collision warnings or crash avoidance algorithms. The increased use of sensors on the front and rear of vehicles could allow cars to effectively “look around corners” and avert collisions due to drivers’ blind spots. And connected technologies need not end with the vehicle. Vehicle-to-pedestrian communications could alert the person walking and texting on their smart phone — as well as the person in the approaching car — that danger is near. This could also help protect cyclists.
Connected and automated technologies would greatly improve the efficiency of transportation on already crowded roads. Consider parking. It is commonly estimated that 30 percent of traffic in cities is caused by cars looking for parking. But what if cities implemented technologies that would alert cars to available nearby parking spaces both curbside and in garages? These types of “smart cities” approaches to transportation are going to be critical to reducing congestion in the years to come, and federal engagement will be key.
And finally, with the increased connectivity and functionality of motor vehicles comes increased risk in the form of cyber-hackers. A few months ago, I invited TowerSec, an automotive cybersecurity company, to Capitol Hill for a connected vehicle hacking demonstration. One of their experts was able to hack a vehicle by spoofing the signal from a wireless tire pressure gauge to connect to safety-critical systems like steering and braking. The more connected devices that are included in today’s vehicles will mean more opportunities for cyber hackers to do harm. I have requested a GAO report on vehicle cybersecurity, and going forward, the Federal Government should engage with the private sector to help establish design standards for cybersecurity in connected vehicles to give consumers confidence that these vehicles are safe.
The measures I was able to include in the transportation bill are a good start toward federal policy which funds research and implements policies which assist connected vehicle technologies, but they are by no means the end of the road. It will take continued work by Congress in the years ahead to fully realize the benefits possible in an automated transportation system.
Rep. Daniel Lipinski is a Democrat from Illinois.