In an era where the availability of connected vehicle systems for safety applications are at best, in question, It is challenging to present topics on which our industry and readers can take action in the near term. Connectivity for applications leading to profitability or systems improvement will always remain in development, which may raise safety concerns because there is no profit center or, therefore, no well-funded lobby, for safety. In today’s vehicle connectivity world, these are two mutually exclusive topics.
Apart from any political considerations, let’s look at some fantastic work being done on non-safety applications for vehicle connectivity. Imagine the vehicle as a wallet.
There are several initiatives, both technically and institutionally, driving the growth of direct payment from vehicles. From the institutional side, an increase in fuel efficiency and a shift to the electrification of vehicles leads to a reduction in funding available from federal and state gas taxes. Under current fuel taxation regulations, a doubling of fuel efficiency necessarily halves funding for roadway maintenance and operations. This phenomenon is also driving the development of alternative funding systems such as enhancements to tolling and road use charging (RUC). While decried by some as double taxation, the benefit of road payment and toll systems is that they more directly correlate payment for services with the use of the system.
Connected vehicles, both telematically from aftermarket devices and directly from the factory-installed communications systems, will enable payments for services such as road usage or parking directly from the vehicle – eliminating standard cash/card and physical debit systems. This capability will not only improve payments for road use but will also enable the development of new payment service schemes for existing infrastructure systems and ultimately potentially transform how we think about payment for all services related to vehicles. Curb as a service (dynamically charging for curb space) and intersection as a service will all be able to be paid directly from the vehicle.
Infrastructure owners and operators (IOOs) will potentially have new options to influence traffic patterns, roadway, and curb uses through financial incentives.
Intersection throughput could be influenced by vehicle type or fee structure across certain times of day, or vehicles that are using the roadways for commercial services may be charged more than a vehicle carrying a full carpool, for example. Cities or airports could charge for the use of curb space for different purposes at different times of day, or perhaps automatically flex the use of a curb based on a special event and be able to enforce the policy or financially incentivize based on a vehicle type communicated directly from and paid for the vehicle.
Until the Federal Communications Commission enables a sufficient spectrum and licenses to execute safety applications for the vehicles, our industry needs to continue developing applications for programs to improve mobility and sustainability of infrastructure systems.