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Federal Highway Administration to award up to $2M for assistance in setting up certification environment for connected vehicles

The US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a request for applications (RFA DTFH6114RA00014) for assistance in establishing a future certification environment for connected vehicle devices and applications. Estimated funding is up to $2 million.

DOT currently is assessing applications that realize the full potential of connected vehicles, travelers and infrastructure both to enhance current operational practices and to transform future surface transportation systems. To realize this potential, connected vehicle equipment and applications must meet minimum performance requirements, conform to common technical standards, and interoperate with one another. Certification testing provides a formal means of verifying that a device, application or service meets these requirements. DOT is seeking a partner to work in a cooperative agreement to:

  • Develop and document policies, plans, procedures, and tools that will be needed to conduct qualification and certification testing for various devices and applications used in large-scale deployment trials to be conducted over the next few years.

  • Conduct tests on various devices and the applications (testing will include radio and message level interface testing, as well as some system performance testing (e.g., radio range and positioning accuracy).

  • Identify an approach for a Connected Vehicle Certification Testing program to become self-sustaining and, by providing support for development and early testing, contribute to establishing such a program.

USDOT is proposing a 4-layer approach to connected vehicle devices and applications certification. The 4 layers are:

  • Environmental Abilities
  • Communication Protocol Abilities
  • Interface Abilities (both the syntax and contents of the message payload transmitted over the communications medium)
  • Overall Application Abilities

The approach consists of certifying a basic device—hardware, software and radio components—to meet environmental and communications protocol requirements. Application certification is separated into two parts; one part for communications interface certification (layer 3), and another for overall functional certification (layer 4) of the application. This separation is necessary as interface semantics (message payload) certification is applicable to one or more application.

A basic device must be certified at layers one (1) Environmental Abilities, and two (2) Communication Protocol Abilities. An application that resides on a basic device must be certified for its functional and communications capabilities requiring all four layers.

Environmental Abilities. This layer certifies that a device is suitable for the environment in which it will be used (temperature, vibration, weather, etc.). Environmental suitability certification is necessary because the device’s contribution to the application or system is lost if the basic device fails prematurely. Various industry segments will likely have specific requirements in this area. Self-certification is potentially appropriate at this level. DOT suggets that device or Tier 1 suppliers will most likely conduct this testing, and that their responsibility to customers will enforce conformance.

Communication Protocol Abilities. This layer certifies that the basic device conforms to the communications protocol standards that govern transfer of message payloads (e.g. radio service interoperability for Dedicated Short Range Communications, message payload format consistency, header contents). The basic device must meet a specific configuration of the specified standards to ensure interoperability.

DOT said that it will need to work collectively with system contributors to arrive at a shared understanding of the specific requirements for this level. The ability to perform certifications—either self-certifications or third-party lab certifications—will need to be established by the system contributors. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license requirements and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) application message definition requirements will make conformance necessary.

Radio service operation testing will likely be done by specialized labs, while message payload construction could be done by specialized labs or specific users with the necessary expertise.

Interface Abilities. This layer is applicable to one or more applications and certifies that the message payload includes the appropriate payload content and security content, and that it is formatted properly. Certification verifies that both the syntax and contents being shared across the interface is useful to an application. This layer defines operating conditions and criteria for meeting accuracy and performance requirements. Product development processes and industry or governmental regulations could enforce conformance.

OEMs may conduct this level of certification with initial samples from device makers. Third party testing and certification organizations could also certify at this layer.

Overall Application Abilities. This layer is the most difficult to certify, DOT said. In order to ensure that all specifications are verified, an entity must bring multiple components together to see if the whole system works. One example of this certification layer can be seen in Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP) application developers’ role to integrate vehicles and infrastructure communications in the Safety Pilot Model Deployment. Similar overall interest groups will need to do this for all applications.

DOT suggested that industry associations may develop and enforce this layer of certification prior to introducing a new application and at regular intervals thereafter based on modifications to an application. Although not all applications will require certification at this layer, DOT has yet to determine which ones might be excluded.

Should the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandate specific connected vehicle technology and specific safety applications, NHTSA could specify objective test procedures with specific pass/fail criteria in the form of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) certification testing.

DOT is looking for a partner to establish this future certification environment for devices and applications that leverage wireless communications, including all appropriate systems engineering, systems integration, testing, and technical support required.

The agency envisions a phased approach consisting of:

  1. Agreement on the extent of the project
  2. Agreement on device specifications
  3. Definition of the test procedures and equipment requirements
  4. Individual test facility construction
  5. Individual test facility operation
  6. Update business plans, test procedures and tool requirements


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