Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
February 4, 2014
In a move that signals a great technological leap forward for the auto industry, the federal government announced Monday that it will take steps to require all new cars and light trucks to communicate with each other, with the hopes of drastically reducing the total of more than 30,000 vehicle deaths each year.
The technology, known as "vehicle-to-vehicle" or "V2V," gives cars the ability to communicate with one another and exchange safety data such as speed and position.
Federal transportation officials, who hope to propose the new V2V rule before President Obama leaves office in January 2017, said Monday it has "game-changing potential" to cut collisions, deaths and injuries.
"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the lifesaving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in Washington. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry."
A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars.
Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. It also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights.
Alerts could be a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver's seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically apply the brakes to avoid an accident.
If communities choose to invest in the technology, roadways and traffic lights could start talking to cars, too, sending warnings of traffic congestion or road hazards ahead in time for drivers to take a detour.
The technology is separate from automated safety features using sensors and radar that are already being built into some high-end vehicles today and which are seen as the basis for future self-driving cars. But government and industry officials see the two technologies as compatible. If continuous conversations between cars make driving safer, then self-driving cars will become safer as well.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been working with automakers on the technology for the past decade, estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80% of accidents that don't involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.
After an agency report, the public and carmakers will have 90 days to comment on the proposal, then regulators will begin drafting a proposal, a process could take months to years.
Research on V2V technology has been underway for nearly a decade, and more than 3,000 vehicles currently have the technology as part of a pilot program in Ann Arbor, MI.
For decades, much of the focus in transportation has been about surviving the traumatic impact of crashes through features like air bags and seat belts. But the future is largely about avoiding those crashes in the first place. The safety benefits can't be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology.
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