September 18, 2017

Thoughts from NSLC on Autonomous Vehicles and First Responders

Recently, I was invited to speak at the National State Legislators Conference where state legislators come together in a bi-partisan setting to work on policy innovation and share ideas. I came to the conference to share my ideas around the ways R2V™ (Responder-to-Vehicle) alerts will help keep the public and first responders safe on the roads. And, I shared my perspective on the automotive industry’s responsibility to join with cities, policy makers and technologists to shape automotive innovation responsibly.

This type of collaboration has been important for HAAS Alert. When we first began working on our mission of delivering alerts to drivers when first responders are approaching, we took a very product centered approach. From a technology perspective, and with our backgrounds in the automotive industry and telematics, we knew the complexities and difficulties of delivering true real-time data to a car including 5-10 minute lag times in delivering data even in navigation apps touting “real time” updates to their maps. So, we needed to figure out how we were going to solve the vehicle-to-vehicle communication problem to deliver data in real-time -- and we wanted to do it using existing cellular networks, so it would be available today, for any city, with any budget.

So, we had a data problem. At the time, data regarding emergency vehicles’ locations and when they were in emergency mode was not readily available. To generate the data we needed, we took a hands-on approach, collaborating with first responders as well as the broader public safety offices within municipalities. We spent more than 1,000 hours with first responders in the field, and are now sitting as co-chairs of several first responder organizations, working with many of the wireless public safety boards, are contributors to the first responder and apparatus OEMs, and have our own safety goals for the road to 0 deaths through the safety organizations.

All this collaboration helped bring about the product solution on data delivery, but that’s only half the puzzle. To actually deliver the data and have a broader automotive solution, the OEMs and Tier 1 manufacturers need to be involved for in-dash integration so motorists can easily receive alerts in apps they already use as well as through traffic data suppliers. The possibilities for smart city grids to use the data continues to grow with initiatives like connected traffic lights and street lights (one city wants to make street lights brighter when first responders are heading down the road).

And things become even more complex when you consider the onset of autonomous vehicles. We consider autonomous vehicles as belonging to its own unique industry with unique technology challenges. There are different rules, legislations, DOT efforts, state and Federal laws, city governing, RFPs/RFIs with their own requirements, and the list goes on. Just saying "our technology works with autonomous vehicles" is great, but only if your technology is part of the legislative process and is embedded in the vehicle (Are we still calling it a "vehicle"?). For autonomous vehicles, this requires a policy discussion and more policy work than just simply integrating the technology side of true real-time data into the vehicle.

The need for collaboration doesn’t end there. Most cities are building on connections as a smart city. As mentioned above, with our data set in our Safety Cloud, we've been asked to send data to connected traffic lights, connected street lights, backend integration for smart city services, and the list goes on.

Our ecosystem is not one, but many, and you can't have one without the other, as they are now inextricably dependent on each other:

  • First Responders and Public Safety
  • Automotive / Navigation / Traffic Data Suppliers
  • Smart City Integration
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Policy and Regulatory (let’s not forget about FirstNet)

For a young and growing company such as ours, this ecosystem can seem daunting. But we have a real opportunity to bridge these various groups: We can make sure that first responders know the technology and see the benefits for safety; we can encourage the automotive/navigation/traffic suppliers to integrate this safety feature for safety’s sake; we can enable the cities we are working with to use the data on the smart city grid for safer intersections and driver/public behavior, and we can lobby cities and states to see the benefit of including this functionality into required autonomous vehicle legislation and policies; and finally, we can watch governing bodies to see if they keep up with technology that can be critical to achieving 0 traffic deaths on our roadways.

At the heart of it is the delivery mechanism, the automotive/nav/traffic suppliers. They will be instrumental in shaping the future of our roadways and supporting growth towards L5 autonomy. They currently have the momentum and the size to help shape policy, and if they are at the table for smart city integration as these industries are now intrinsically linked, then we will be sure to have the support for the public safety our first responders deserve.

Tag(s): Connected Cars

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