The Department of Transportation (DOT) said Monday that it plans to require vehicle-to-vehicle communications in future generations of cars, eventually making the technology as ubiquitous as seat belts.
Specifically, the DOT said that it will prepare a report on its findings on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications for publication in the coming weeks. That report will become the foundation for a new V2V regulatory framework, to be published later.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), part of the DOT, "will then begin working on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles in a future year, consistent with applicable legal requirements, Executive Orders, and guidance," the DOT said in a statement Monday. The DOT said it believes that the signal this announcement sends to the market will significantly enhance development of this technology and pave the way for market penetration of V2V safety applications.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communications refers to the emergence of Wi-Fi-like radios that could be mounted in cars and communicate with one another. Also known as Dedicated Short-Range Communications, V2V car-mounted radios would constantly communicate with other vehicles within range, providing speed and directional data to other cars' safety and navigation systems. The idea is that a car racing around a blind curve would "know" that a car was heading in the opposite direction, or a car would receive warnings that cars ahead were coming to an unexpected stop.
In August, 2012, DOT launched what it called the Safety Pilot "model deployment" in Ann Arbor, Mich., where nearly 3,000 vehicles were deployed in the largest-ever road test of V2V technology. DOT testing demonstrated the interoperability of V2V technology among products from different vehicle manufacturers and suppliers and has demonstrated that they work in real-world environments, it said.
"V2V crash avoidance technology has game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on our nation's roads," said NHTSA's acting administrator, David Friedman, in a statement. "Decades from now, it's likely we'll look back at this time period as one in which the historical arc of transportation safety considerably changed for the better, similar to the introduction of standards for seat belts, airbags, and electronic stability control technology."
At this point, the DOT doesn't envision that the V2V data would do anything more than sound an alert, rather than trigger the braking or steering systems. The DOT also said that the data would not be used to track drivers. "In fact, the system as contemplated contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure that vehicles can rely on messages sent from other vehicles and that a vehicle or group of vehicles would be identifiable through defined procedures only if there is a need to fix a safety problem," the DOT said.
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Vehicle communications systems have been in place for some years, with bus systems in London, the San Francisco Bay Area's BART system, and others broadcasting their estimated times of arrival at the next station, based upon their location data. It's this vision of the future that Scott F. Belcher, president and chief executive of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), said he endorsed.
"Thanks to the strong commitment by U.S. DOT and automotive leaders, and years of investment by countless innovators and industry pioneers, the vision of 'talking' cars that avoid crashes is well on the way to becoming a reality," Belcher said in a statement. "And we're not just talking about cars talking to cars, but about cars talking to bikes, trucks talking to motorcycles, and even buses talking to pedestrians. This promises to significantly reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our nation's roads while unleashing a new wave of innovation from advanced traffic management systems and smart mobility apps to real-time traffic, transit and parking information. We look forward to working with U.S. DOT, the automakers, and high-tech industry to ensure that issues such as security and privacy are addressed as we work toward full scale adoption of this life-saving technology."