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Development Activities

International Standards Harmonization

Purpose and goals of international harmonization

Technology harmonization is a process for establishing common architectures, standards, policies, and other critical processes that benefit from being as similar as practical across regions. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) collaborates with other governments, industry associations, experts, and standards development organizations (SDOs) when in the public interest to enable:

  • Shared research, leading to a broader base of expertise to inform research, a larger and more detailed set of results, and leveraged/reduced research costs;
  • Common hardware and software across regions, leading to reduced development and manufacturing costs;
  • Improved interoperability across borders, leading to enhanced safety and commerce; and
  • Facilitation of a global marketplace, leading to accelerated deployment of new technologies.

Due to differences in policy and regulatory regimes across regions, harmonization may not always result in identical outcomes. However, substantial benefits are still possible if architectures and standards can be made sufficiently similar to allow, for example, commonalities in hardware and software and/or comparable policies.

USDOT’s collaborative relationships

The USDOT collaborates with multiple SDOs working on ITS and related standards to facilitate harmonization when in the public interest. USDOT cooperates with the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) as well as domestic SDOs, including IEEE, SAE, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA). The basis of these relationships is to fund experts and State and local participants to identify requirements in standards working groups, as appropriate. USDOT also strategically cooperates with two European SDOs, maintaining a Memorandum of Cooperation with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)and observer status with the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

SDO participation allows the USDOT to:

  • Support consistent and rigorous development of standards;
  • Influence development on the issues that result in key benefits to the Nation (such as interoperability), as well as support consistent deployments across the Nation; and
  • Keep abreast of other developments that might affect US standards (such as development of the next generation of technology protocols) or present critical opportunities for harmonization.

In addition to relationships with SDOs, the USDOT maintains important cooperative agreements with other countries in support of harmonization efforts. The Implementing Arrangement with the European Union (EU) has formed the basis of much of the USDOT’s work in international harmonization, and has provided additional means for multilateral efforts with other nations. Agreements and informal cooperation between the USDOT and Australia, Japan, and Korea permit information exchanges and research collaborations on select standards working group activities. The USDOT also collaborates with Canada on various standards activities related to border interoperability under a long-standing agreement.

EU-US Implementing Arrangement

In January 2009, the USDOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration (now OST-R) and the European Commission's Directorate General for Information Society and Media (now the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology, or DG Connect) signed an Implementing Arrangement to develop coordinated research programs, specifically focusing on cooperative vehicle systems.

The EU-US Joint Declaration of Intent on Research Cooperation in Cooperative Systems, signed in November 2009, introduced clear goals for this coordination, namely:

  • Support, wherever possible, global open standards to ensure interoperability of cooperative systems worldwide and to preclude the development and adoption of redundant standards;
  • Identify research areas that would benefit from a harmonized approach and that could be addressed by coordinated or joint research; and
  • Avoid duplication of research efforts.
Standards Harmonization Working Group

Under the Implementing Arrangement, a Coordinating Group executes work programs through several working groups, co-led and staffed by representatives of the USDOT and the EU. One of the most active working groups has been the Standards Harmonization Working Group (HWG). The HWG provides the basis for EU-US work in ITS harmonization as defined in its Harmonization Action Plan (HAP). The five tracks of the HAP are listed below; the full text of the Harmonization Action Plan is available here:

  • High-level assessment (“landscape”) - completed in 2011
  • Agreement on governmental harmonization principles – final draft
  • Gap/overlap analysis for standards needs – planning underway
  • Facilitation of harmonization of specific standards – ongoing
  • Planning future cooperation – ongoing
Harmonization Task Groups

A majority of HWG activities take place through flexible organizational constructs called Harmonization Task Groups (HTGs). HTGs are a means for focused analysis to lead to harmonization and/or joint development of specific standards, protocols, and policies. HTG activities to date include:

HTG1 & HTG3: ITS Security and Communication Protocols

Completed in 2013, these two HTGs worked in parallel on analyses of security standards (HTG1) and communications standards (HTG3) for Connected Vehicle systems to provide recommendations to SDOs. Both Harmonization Task Groups’ reports can be downloaded here:

HTG2: Harmonization of US Basic Safety Message (BSM) and EU Cooperative Awareness Message (CAM)

Completed in 2012 and showcased the 2012 ITS World Congress, this HTG sought to harmonize the vehicle-to-vehicle safety messages that had been developed separately within the EU and the US. The HTG was able to evolve the two message sets in a manner such that simple software translation is sufficient to allow cross-compatibility.

HTG4/5: Infrastructure Messages

Currently in progress, this HTG intends to address the need for standardized Vehicle-to-Infrastructure message sets and interfaces, including:

  • Signalized intersections applications such as Signal Phase and Timing, Signal Request, Signal Status (ISO 19091)
  • In-vehicle data message sets (ISO 19321)
HTG6: Cooperative ITS Security Policy

The work of HTG6 substantially completed in late 2015 with publication of documents supporting an end-to-end security policy framework that facilitates harmonization of Connected Vehicle systems. The first set of draft final reports was published in October 2015, and additional draft final reports are to be published soon. Available reports can be downloaded here.

HTG7: Standards Selection, Gap Analysis, and Identifiers for Connected Vehicle (CV) architectures

This internationally cooperative work activity will specify standards in detail throughout CV architectures, identify standards gaps for future cooperative development activity, and facilitate Standards Development Organization (SDO) cooperation on globally unique ITS identifiers. The US, Europe, and Australia are conducting this effort cooperatively.

Future HTGs

Results of the currently active HTGs as well as other research work and stakeholder input will inform decisions regarding any future cooperative activity, including future HTGs.

For more information, contact:

Steve Sill

Program Manager, ITS Architecture and Standards

Suzanne Sloan

Volpe National Transportation Systems Center