In my previous blogs about the Secure Vehicle to Vehicle and Vehicle to Infrastructure initiative, driven by the US DoT, I talked about the how improved communications and IT can help save lives, the path to deployment for that technology, and security issues. In this post I’m going to talk about some of the adoption challenges the industry will face. I’ll use “V2X” as the general abbreviation for “Vehicle-to-Anything”.

There are two big hurdles: cost and scalability.

The cost comes in two parts, vehicle-side and infrastructure-side.

On the vehicle side, we’re talking about adding electronics to every vehicle that are comparable to a low-end smartphone. Current prototypes use a 400 MHz single processor, though production units may be higher-spec. Anyway, we’re talking about a bill of materials cost of around $50-$100 per vehicle, and a cost to the OEMs that’s in the $100-$200 range. (These prices will drift down over time, obviously).

The problem is that until the technology is widespread, it won’t give great value to any individual driver. Once V2X is widely deployed there will obviously be opportunities to provide value-added services and profit from them. But it’s not clear why anyone should move first. Despite that, we’re seeing some initiatives, particularly in Europe, to roll the technology out in vehicles on a per-OEM basis; it seems that the OEMs think the safety application will be a selling point even if it only rarely gives you a warning.

On the infrastructure side, there is the question of who will fund roadside units to provide services. Even if there are V2X safety-based deployments it’s not clear that these will also support V2I aftermarket and value-added services. You often hear this expressed as concern about funding: who will fund the initial rollout of infrastructure? Personally, I prefer to think of this as a first mover problem. If there are V2X devices in most cars, service providers will find a way to fund useful infrastructure.

Closer to my area of expertise, there are a couple of open questions: preserving privacy, and managing security infrastructure. The security infrastructure needs to be able to manage and distribute up-to-date information about 200 million vehicles. It’s bigger than any project of its type that’s ever been attempted. Likewise, how do you manage that information while giving drivers assurance that they aren’t being tracked? That’s a PR issue as well as a technical issue. In my next posts I’m going to dig into this question more deeply, as this is where a lot of the most interesting problems come up.

The key to wide-scale adoption is confidence that there will eventually be full deployment. If that confidence is there the first-mover problem becomes much smaller. If we get, for example, a successful conclusion of the Safety Pilot, or a commitment by auto manufacturers to deploy V2X regardless of the Safety Pilot, then you’ll see an explosion of innovation in this area.