This piece was originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of electroindustry.
The first means of human transport involved walking and running. Basically, survival depended upon some elemental level of mobility. But as social groups became larger and interactions among them increased, an impetus for traveling faster than on foot emerged. From single-axle carts in previous millennia to globe- spanning passenger aircraft today, we humans remain keen to shrink time and distance. Ideas that seemed to belong only to the realm of science fiction—Jetsons,anyone?—are becoming a reality. But we still have considerable work to accomplish as we continue this trend, and NEMA companies are an integral part of the physical and technological infrastructure needed to support transportation innovations.
It may seem odd to discuss transportation while most of us are under orders to minimize moving about too much. But NEMA remains active in electric, autonomous, and connected transportation; government advocacy; and Standards development. For instance, NEMA is involved in rulemakings with both the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to pave the way for the adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles.
NHTSA seeks to modernize the definition of “driver” to include both humans and advanced driver systems capable of different levels of vehicle operational autonomy. This change should accord autonomous vehicle (AV) developers the needed flexibility to advance toward fully autonomous vehicles in the United States. Acceleration of related technologies and the needed “tweaks” to our infrastructure can help us “bend the curve” of motor vehicle accidents and injuries by creating a much safer driving environment … one based on vehicles, roadways, and traffic control systems being connected and all playing a role.
There remain challenges. For example, the FCC is analyzing a proposed rule to open 75 MHz of spectrum (in the 5.9 GHz band) previously set aside exclusively for transportation safety applications. Connected vehicles and transportation infrastructure increasingly rely on wireless communication to operate effectively. NEMA is arguing against the rule and is stressing that the FCC should retain exclusive use of this bandwidth for transportation safety. Without this guarantee, exciting transportation-relevant adaptations of innovations such as 5G will be placed in jeopardy.
At the same time, NEMA is developing industry Standards for transportation infrastructure. The latest Standard, NEMA TS 10 Connected Vehicle Infrastructure— Roadside Equipment, will enable vehicles and infrastructure to communicate with each other regardless of the type of device or underlying communication technology (e.g., cellular vehicle to everything or dedicated short-range communications). It addresses practical user needs in equipment such as emergency signal preemption, school zone and wrong way alerts, and pedestrian crosswalk warnings. The NEMA TS 10 Standard also includes information on maintainability, connectivity, communications interoperability, and the ability to address future advances in communications. All of this will give infrastructure owners (e.g., departments of transportation and their partners) confidence to deploy these important technologies today and future-proof their new, safer transportation infrastructure for tomorrow.
As the transportation ecosystem evolves to become more connected, electrified, and increasingly autonomous, NEMA and its Member companies—whether through the development of Standards or government advocacy—will be part of a safer and smarter future for surface transportation. ei
Kevin J. Cosgriff
NEMA President and CEO