Secure Vehicle to Vehicle Communications:  Part I - Can it Save More Lives Than Seatbelts?

Posted by William Whyte on October 12, 2011 at 10:09 AM

This is the first of a series of three blog posts about the Connected Vehicle program being run by the US Department of Transportation (DoT).

32,000 people lost their lives in car accidents in 2010 alone – an actuarial loss to the economy of hundreds of billions of dollars, before you even take into account the costs of accident recovery, vehicle repair, and travel delay.

For more than ten years, technology experts have been working on ways to reduce accidents and save lives. It’s been an effort that’s involved car companies like Ford, General Motors, Daimler, BMW, Nissan, Toyota, Honda; equipment manufacturers like Kapsch, Denso, Delphi, and Raytheon; government agencies, especially the US Department of Transportation; and smaller companies like Security Innovation, who created the IEEE 1609.2 standard for secure
communications and a software implementation of the protocol.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and several related associations including Connected Vehicle Trade Association, Collision Avoidance Metrics Program, and Vehicle Safety Consortium, started exploring secure vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure more than 5 years ago. A lot of progress has been made and this month, a 5,000 car pilot program was started with actual drivers and cars equipped with this wireless transmission equipment.

If the technologies involved can be shown to work, and if it can be installed in every vehicle, then the potential gains are staggering. As a baseline, USDoT estimates that 6,500 lives were saved by seatbelts in 2000, reducing deaths by about 13%. If secure vehicle communications is widely deployed, it would potentially prevent 80% of all accidents where the drivers aren’t drunk or
otherwise impaired. This wouldn’t necessarily reduce deaths by 80%, but it’s clear that we’re talking about a safety and survivability improvement even greater than the impact of seatbelts.

But before the technology can be deployed, it has to be effective, reliable and secure. Security Innovation is working with other companies to secure it and preserve the privacy of drivers in the system. I’ll discuss how in my upcoming blogs.

Topics: connected cars, internet of things, automotive, embedded security

William Whyte

Written by William Whyte

William Whyte is responsible for the strategy and research behind the Security Innovation's activities in vehicular communications, security, and cryptographic research. He is chair of the IEEE 1363 Working Group for new standards in public key cryptography and has served as technical editor of two published IEEE standards, IEEE Std 1363.1-2008 and IEEE Std 1609.2-2006, as well as the ASC X9 standard X9.98.