USDOT VOICES is a bellwether for the driverless industry’s failure

Michael DeKort
7 min readJul 17, 2022


In January of 2021 I started my voluntary efforts to assist USDOT VOICES (Virtual Open Innovation Collaboration Environment for Safety).

The following is from their white paper

“The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has initiated the Virtual Open Innovation Collaborative Environment for Safety (VOICES) proof of concept (PoC) project. Through the VOICES project, the USDOT intends to seed a platform designed to facilitate collaborative research, development, and testing, while protecting intellectual property (IP), among diverse stakeholders engaged in the design, build, test, and evaluation of the safety, performance, and interoperability of transportation automation and connectivity technologies that could significantly improve the safety, mobility, efficiency, and environmental impacts of transportation in the United States (U.S.). This paper discusses the current state of transportation in the U.S. and emerging transportation technologies, resulting in a need for an environment that promotes collaborative and interoperable development and testing of these technologies. The deployment of current and emerging advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), connected vehicle‐to‐everything (V2X) systems, automated driving systems (ADS), and cooperative driving automation (CDA) systems could benefit from common test infrastructure, tools, and methods. The VOICES PoC will be accessible to Federal, State, and local governments; transportation infrastructure and automotive industries; manufacturers; technology developers; research institutions; and academia.”

In a nutshell, their goals were to assist the autonomous vehicle industry by leveraging DoD and their simulation/simulator networking and messaging architectures as well as leveraging cooperative driving automation (CDA) to further ADAS, V2X and simulation development and testing. (They were aware gaming simulation technology and modeling approaches fall short.) While their intentions were good, the core problem was an acute lack of multi-domain experience and the courage to admit and resolve those experience gaps and push back on the industry echo chamber and do the right thing, especially by the folks in leadership of each organization involved. This left the core team to take an unnecessary Agile bottoms up approach to either trying to recreate what existed for decades or trying to create capabilities that defied physics. All of which wasted time, money and even managed to aggravate the existing industry echo chamber by actually trying to create wheels even they knew were a massive waste of time. The parties involved include US DOT/FHWA, DoD, Leidos Transportation and EY-Parthenon (they purchased QS-2). (Ironically, and quite sadly, had Leidos used or involved their flight simulation group none of this would likely have occurred.)

Core Examples/Issues

ADAS/AV development, simulation, or simulation/simulator networks — The core leadership had no experience with ADAS or AV development or testing. Nor simulation or simulation/simulator networks. They had no idea what these folks did, what these folks needed, how their tech worked and where VOICES could help beyond FHWA’s CARMA V2X efforts.

Cloud Latency — This was the crux of the debacles. NONE of the folks involved had ANY experience with simulation, simulator or real-world systems and cloud latency. That latency was basically between 30ms and 100ms. Often toward the higher end of that.

Cooperative Driving Automation (CDA) — This is where real-world entities, like FHWA’s CARMA car connects to simulation or simulated entities through the cloud. First, let’s drag that latency into the discussion. If you want to work on V2X without a human driving the real-world car as it integrates with simulation, fine. Those 10hz V2X messages can fly around and be consumed without any issues caused by the latency. However, if you try to integrate that CARMA real-world car, with a human driver AND set up a platooning scenario at 55mph with a human in the lead truck and simulated trucks drafting tight, that latency is way too much. And all you need is common sense and an abacus to figure that out. When Several others joined with me to try to get the VOICES folks to drop these scenarios. USDOT/FHWA and Leidos ALL forced the project to spend most of that year setting up useless demos. In the end the project not only failed and proved us right, Leidos forced the normal platooning speed down to 30mph from 55mph because they were concerned we could be right. That made things worse. The effort failed due to latency AND they aggravated the platooning folks further by driving slower than the minimum platooning drafting speed of 55mph. This culminated with a meeting where the platooning folks, who were not notified of the change to 30mph, to get significantly aggravated by the ordeal. And to feel the VOICES team misled them into the situation. In addition to this debacle was the larger one I have not mentioned yet. Integrated simulation/simulator scenarios for development and testing.

Integrated simulation/simulator scenarios for development and testing — This is where DoD messaging and network architectures are used to allow different environments to work together for development and testing of AV systems not just platooning. A capability that was first proven in the late 90s at an Air Force Special Operations simulation training facility in New Mexico. I was part of that effort. I handled the special T-1 link to a simulation environment in Florida and was the PM for the demonstration event. (I should mention 100ms is the maximum latency in the air domain. This winds up being acceptable for several reasons. The use cases involved battle management and cooperative operations and communications. And NONE of the aircraft or any other entity flew, drove or moved close enough to another entity for the delay to be an issue. Yes, we flew real and long-distance donated aircraft from simulation environments in formation. BUT any maneuver that could cause an issue was avoided.) This brings me to the worst debacle of all. During the period the leadership wasted everyone’s time and taxpayer dollars, the SI&T group (systems integration and test) which comprised of OEMs, AV makers, academics, and simulation companies, all agreed with my suggestion that we find way to interest maximum participation among the AV makers. This by finding use cases, scenarios, locations, road patterns etc we could simulate that would benefit the players while avoiding the latency issues, as well as IP concerns. Where working together on a tough problem would outweigh competitive concerns. (There was also the benefit of creating a location database no one would have through a group funded pool that would make acquiring that database cheaper for everyone than going alone.) We were circling in on Washington, DC. But could never get the leadership to bite.

This brings us to current day. Since VOICES only had budget for spinning up the efforts and doing a couple demos the effort has to be transitioned to industry. In many of the meetings we discussed what the revenue models might be and how the transition might be structured to get an industry entity or team to carry the torch. The whole things became such a mess USDOT decided to sole source the effort to Mitre. As far as I know Mitre has no significant relevant experience either. And as far as I am concerned pushing this as sole source without an open bid is wrong and likely illegal. (Sole source can be justified is an entity has a verified special and critical capability. As far as I know Mitre doesn’t have one.) After exhausting my efforts to rectify the situation I filed a fraud waste and abuse claim with the USDOT Inspector General. As did someone else in the group. Neither of us has ever been contacted by the IG. My advice to the industry is to stay far away from this group. They do not care about the industry, furthering the technology or improving development, safety, testing, interoperability etc. All they care about is sticking with the status quo, avoiding a hit to their egos or stature, and making money. This brings me to the bellwether part. There comes a point when you realize how wrong, unsafe, and unethical your actions or inactions are. At that point you can own it, deal with the ramifications, and try to fix it. Those ramifications could involve a hit to your ego, stature, career, wallet etc. Or you can dig in and push forward hoping you can ride it out. That is what the VOICES and driverless industry is doing. VOICES regarding the issues I discussed and the industry with respect to their untenable development and design approach. Which discuss in more detail below.

USDOT introduces VOICES Proof of Concept for Autonomous Vehicle Industry-A Paradigm Shift?


The Autonomous Vehicle Industry can be Saved by doing the Opposite of what is being done now


How the failed Iranian hostage rescue in 1980 can save the Autonomous Vehicle industry


My name is Michael DeKort — I am Navy veteran (ASW C4ISR) and a former system engineer, engineering, and program manager for Lockheed Martin. I worked in aircraft simulation, the software engineering manager for all of NORAD, a software project manager on an Aegis Weapon System baseline, and a C5ISR systems engineer for DoD/DHS and the US State Department (counterterrorism). And a Senior Advisory Technical Project Manager for FTI to the Army AI Task Force at CMU NREC (National Robotics Engineering Center)

Autonomous Industry Participation — Air and Ground

- Founder SAE On-Road Autonomous Driving Simulation Task Force

- Member SAE ORAD Verification and Validation Task Force

- Member UNECE WP.29 SG2 Virtual Testing

- Stakeholder USDOT VOICES (Virtual Open Innovation Collaborative Environment for Safety)

- Member SAE G-35, Modeling, Simulation, Training for Emerging AV Tech

- Member SAE G-34 / EUROCAE WG-114 Artificial Intelligence in Aviation

- Member Teleoperation Consortium

- Member CIVATAglobal — Civic Air Transport Association

- Stakeholder for UL4600 — Creating AV Safety Guidelines

- Member of the IEEE Artificial Intelligence & Autonomous Systems Policy Committee

SAE Autonomous Vehicle Engineering magazine editor calling me “prescient” regarding my position on Tesla and the overall driverless vehicle industry’s untenable development and testing approach — (Page 2)

Presented the IEEE Barus Ethics Award for Post 9/11 DoD/DHS Whistleblowing Efforts



Michael DeKort

Non-Tribal Truth Seeker-IEEE Barus Ethics Award/9–11 Whistleblower-Aerospace/DoD Systems Engineer/Member SAE Autonomy and eVTOL development V&V & Simulation