(Photo Credit: NHTSA/SaferCar)

The U.S. Department Of Transportation and automakers have been testing the concept of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication for years. Today the agency said it’s getting serious about having cars talk to each other for safety, and has proposed specific rules and methods that would force automakers to load vehicles with this tech on all new vehicles by 2023.

The government is hoping to lock down a set of regulations by 2019, begin phasing them in by 2021 and have a “final rule” in place that has every new car on a V2V system two years later.

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The idea behind such a system is that it would allow cars to warn other cars about hazards. If executed properly it would basically unlock the ultimate blind-spot alert system. If you have a lot of time today, you can read the proposal in its entirety (.PDF download) via the NHTSA’s site. It explains the rationale of why V2V communication would help our infrastructure (fewer crashes, deaths and associated cost, etc.) and even explains how it would work (many lines of computer code working with GPS data.)

(Illustration: NHTSA)

In 2014 the DOT and National Highway Traffic Safety Association started making noise about setting up rules and regulations for such technology, and today the agencies are announcing an official proposal. It boils down to a mandate for automakers to fit V2V tech in new vehicles, and use a “standardized messaging system developed with the industry.” This is in addition to vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I, naturally) tech that’s supposed to be coming in parallel, with which traffic lights and intersections would warn your car of what’s coming ahead on your route.

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Mercedes-Benz is already doing this, partially, though of course the new E-Class’s V2V system is proprietary and not necessarily compatible with, say, whatever Nissan or Jaguar come up with. Hence the government’s desire for standardization.

And maybe because something something conspiracy theory. Though the DOT and NHTSA claim personal information is not a part of what’s transmitted. “V2V technology does not involve the exchange of information linked to or, as a practical matter, linkable to an individual, and the rule would require extensive privacy and security controls in any V2V devices,” details the press release.

(Table: NHTSA)

Security measures outlined by the DOT and NHTSA include: “A date range describing the validity period for the certificate, a public key corresponding to a private key (ensuring data can only be accessed by a specific recipient) [and a] digital signature from a certificate authority.”

(Table: NHTSA)

The agencies behind this idea outline that V2V would work off a Dedicated Short Range Communications system, by “short” they mean about 300 meters, and “operate on the 75 MHz band of the 5.9 GHz spectrum, which has been allocated by the FCC for use by Intelligent Transportations Systems (ITS) vehicle safety and mobility applications” according to the NHTSA’s V2V Fact Sheet.

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Broadcasts would be updated “up to 10 times per second” from one vehicle to every other vehicle within range, tying in to automatic braking and adaptive cruise control to basically turn every car’s driver aid sensors into one big holistic system.

The NHTSA’s research on the matter claims the proposed V2V and V2I systems working together “could eliminate or mitigate the severity of up to 80 percent of non-impaired crashes, including crashes at intersections or while changing lanes.”

In other words the government thinks it could save a lot of lives. And money. More specifically, per the proposal (.PDF download):

“As this proposal is currently limited only to light vehicles, the crash population encompasses approximately 3.4 million (62 percent of all crashes) light-vehicle to light-vehicle (LV2LV) crashes, which would translate to 7,325 fatalities... The economic and comprehensive costs for these crashes amount to approximately $109 billion and $319 billion, respectively.”

Of course somebody has to pay for this fancy tech, and that somebody will be people buying cars. The NHTSA estimates an initial cost of $250 to $350 per-new-vehicle once V2V tech is mandated, depending on if cars are to be equipped with one or two radios.

(Table: NHTSA)

The next step is for the feds to collect commentary on this proposal from the public over a 90 day period, which you can access on the Federal Register. As I’m writing this up now that link is not live, but apparently will be soon. In the meantime you can look through the complete proposal via .PDF as linked above and get your thoughts ready.

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Like it or not, V2V seems key to a viable autonomous driving infrastructure. And I don’t see why it couldn’t co-exist with old-fashioned human driven cars and motorcycles. It sounds like the DOT and NHTSA have a lot of the location-based coding to make this happen ready to go, but I guess the next question is, do automakers and the American public want to meet them on this?