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Nationally Compatible Electronic Toll Collection Is One Goal of Federally Supported ASTM Standard

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) wants technically compatible electronic toll booth collection systems in all 50 states. This, and other important advancements will be possible through a nationally interoperable Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) standard being developed by ASTM Subcommittee E17.51.

In 1999, the FHWA formed a cooperative agreement with ASTM to develop a DSRC standard. “We expect DSRC to have a major impact on motorists and pedestrians in the next few years,” said Lee Armstrong, a multi-discipline engineer who chairs the subcommittee. “This will allow full Internet access driving or walking at speeds far better than a cable modem—20 times faster.”

Electronic toll booth operation is the most recognized and used application of DSRC at this time, but is not the sole intent of what the subcommittee is doing, said Armstrong, the president of Armstrong Consulting, Inc., Newtonville, Mass.

“This 5.9 GHz DSRC standard will be designed to support a wide variety of applications that need low latency, short range, high-data rate communications service,” said electrical engineer Broady Cash, a DSRC task force chairman.

“Along with critical safety warnings and traffic information while driving,” continued Cash, who is principal engineer of ARINC, Annapolis, Md., “our standard will provide high-speed Internet access in designated “hot spots” such as service stations, truck stops, parking lots, home garages, etc. DSRC systems will enable the downloading of maps, traffic information, MP3 (music) files, movies, and other useful information to vehicle computers while stopped at these locations.”

“When a new radio spectrum at 5.9 GHz was provided by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], the ASTM E17.51 subcommittee for DSRC formed a 5.9 GHz Standards Writing Group to develop new standards appropriate to this new frequency,” Armstrong explained. “Another task force within this committee addressed the future user needs for DSRC. These user requirements were analyzed and reduced to a set of technical specifications to be applied to the new standards. The Writing Group conducted a year of testing and evaluation of the three candidate technologies capable of satisfying these requirements, and chose the IEEE 802.11a R/A technology to be the basis for these standards at their August meeting.”

In August, the subcommittee, task forces, and other members of ASTM Committee E17 on Vehicle Pavement Systems voted 20-2 for IEEE 802.11a R/A (Roadside Applications), based on the IEEE 802.11a wireless LAN standard.

With the technology decided, representatives from some of the world’s largest electronics corporations will undertake the standard writing process. Also participating are smaller vendors and producers, members of the U.S. FHWA, state Departments of Transportation, and bridge or toll authorities.

A completed first draft is expected in late December or January. “It’s been a major accomplishment,” said Dan Smith, ASTM technical committee manager. “The subcommittee has done a tremendous amount of testing and evaluating in selecting an approach that can be used to develop a standard dealing with electronic toll collection and other applications.”

The U.S. Federal Register describes DSRC applications and benefits as follows: “The DSRC systems use microwave communications over very short distances to allow moving vehicles to communicate with roadside locations. In commercial vehicle applications, the DSRC devices provide identification of vehicles which allows electronic screening of the vehicle, for safety, regulatory compliance, and credentials at weigh stations, ports of entry, and international border crossings. The use of DSRC standards would promote interoperability among, and enable integration of the ITS systems for North American commercial vehicle applications. Interoperability provided by this provisional standard would also encourage business interoperability and cooperation.”

ASTM Committee E17 will have jurisdiction over the DSRC standard. The committee develops principles, techniques and standards for pavement management technologies, vehicle pavement interactions, and intelligent vehicle/highway systems.

Direct technical questions to Lee R. Armstrong, Armstrong Consulting, Inc., Newtonville, Mass (phone: 617/244-9203) or Broady Cash, ARINC., Annapolis, Md. (phone: 410/266-4413). Committee E17 meets June 23-26 in Dallas. For meeting or membership details, contact manager Dan Smith, ASTM Technical Committee Operations (phone: 610/832-9717). //

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