DSRC's challenges are at least twofold. A federal mandate failed to materialize, leaving automakers and other interested parties, such as the Federal Communications Commission, uncertain about its path forward. In the meantime, a cellular version of DSRC messages, broadly known as vehicle-to-everything, or V2X, has emerged as an alternative path because V2X could share information with other vehicles, infrastructure or even bicyclists and pedestrians.
Toyota's announcement marks the latest chapter in the battle between cellular-V2X and DSRC, leaving the future of DSRC all the more precarious. Though Toyota has paused its plans, company officials say they remain firm proponents of DSRC over the long term.
"We were past the drop-dead time on a decision to put this in, and felt like we had to be honest about what our plans are and how they've changed," Ed Bradley, a program manager in Toyota's regulatory affairs department, told the conference. "But it in no way, shape or form diminishes our support for DSRC and what we're thinking and doing as we look to the future."
Proponents of DSRC hold it up as the only method of communication that has been vetted for more than a decade and is available to deploy now. A 2018 study by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute found that as many as 8.1 million crashes and 44,000 deaths could be prevented if V2X technology was deployed today compared with waiting three years to develop and evaluate competing technologies.
DSRC advocates see Toyota's decision as a setback, but not the end of the road.
"It's key that they're pushing the 'pause' button," said Greg Winfree, executive director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. "It's not the 'eject' button. It's not the 'We're going to find a new technology' button. It's 'We still believe in this technology and the power of connected vehicles to save lives and reduce injuries.' "
But automakers are hesitant to pay for additional equipment, especially if their competitors are not mandated to do the same. Because they already install equipment for cellular connectivity, Bluetooth, LTE and 4G LTE, and even SiriusXM, they're reluctant to add another radio.