Technology That Helps Vehicles Avoid Crashes

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In the very near future federal officials will decide whether to require new cars to include smart technology that will alert drivers to an impending crash. Even if the vehicles are two or three cars away.

The Government Accountability Office has recently released a study that found if the technology was widely implemented, “V2V technologies could provide warnings to drivers in as much as 76 percent of potential multi-vehicle collisions.”

A year-long pilot program with 3,000 cars, trucks and buses in Ann Arbor, Michigan “demonstrates V2V’s viability and value,” the DOT said in a blog post. As tested, the vehicles warn the driver of danger, but do not hit the brakes or control steering. With 30,000 people killed on U.S. roads every year, V2V offers the possibility of saving a lot of lives.

“The continued progress of V2V technology development hinges on a decision that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to make on how to proceed. One option would be to pursue a rule requiring their inclusion in new vehicles,” The GOA wrote in a November study.

2013 ended without NHTSA’s expected decision, and this year the agency said only that it expected “to announce a decision in the coming weeks.”

The GAO expects the cost of this technology to be “modest relative to the price of a new vehicle”. The expensive part could be the communication system safeguards that would be necessary for the widespread use of these cars.

“Widespread technology depends on other cars having the same system so they can talk to each other,” claims David Wise, director of the GAO’s Physical Infrastructure Team, who wrote the GAO study.

The issue of privacy is also concern:

“Privacy is the real challenge, the V2V will likely rely on GPS-type data that could track a person’s movements.

“Who has access and how do you secure the data?” Wise asked rhetorically. Wise also raised the question of someone hacking the system and causing havoc on the road. “The cost is in the communication security system,” he said.

There is also the concern of liability if a car that has the V2V system is involved in a crash, the GAO report stated.

“If NHTSA decides to require new cars to be smart cars, it could still be a generation before they become commonplace on the road, Wise said. “It takes 20 years for the country’s fleet of cars to turn over,” he said.

Other benefits to V2V

There are benefits to V2V beyond safety. The E.U.-financed Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project uses wireless technology to connect six to eight cars in a convoy, so they act like cars of a train. The resulting “road train” keeps vehicles at the same speed, improving fuel efficiency and reducing congestion.

Once the automakers add the ability to actually avoid crashes, then it isn’t much of a leap to creating self-driving cars in the near future.

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