Imagine a world where everyone's cars are in constant communication with one another so they can act in an emergency to prevent a crash. That's what the federal government said they want today, with a "moonshot" goal of preventing up to 80 percent of crashes.
The Associated Press reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today announced they will start working on regulations that will require automakers to equip their cars and trucks with technology that lets vehicles communicate with each other.
Vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, is an acronym you're about to start hearing quite often. Government officials today didn't mince words on what a big deal it could be for safety.
"V2V crash avoidance technology has game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on our nation's roads," NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman said 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."
Here's the big boast, though: NHTSA estimates such technology could prevent as much as 80 percent of accidents that don't involve impaired drivers or mechanical failure. In other words, the government is working to make car crashes a thing of the past.
Research into V2V systems have been going on for years. Some 3,000 connected cars were tested in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 2012, the largest such deployment of the technology. The DOT says participants showed high levels of acceptance of the technology and a desire to have it on their own cars.
Here's how V2V could work, according to the AP report:
A radio beacon would continually transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information. Cars would receive the same information back from other vehicles, and a vehicle's computer would alert the driver to an impending collision. Some systems may automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has a goal for the V2V proposal to be completed by 2016. Europe's goal is for that to happen in 2015.
If you've driven a new car lately, you know that many of these features — like radar-adaptive cruise control and automatic braking — are already present and even common. And technology exists that would let cars talk to one another; it's called Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or DSRC. What they lack is the regulations to make that happen, but after today, it seems that will likely be coming soon.
As Gabe Nelson reports over at Automotive News, there are other issues related to privacy and security that need to be sorted out as well. Here's Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers:
"DSRC radios may play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together," Bergquist said in a statement. "We need to address security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the 'network effect' and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework."
Make no mistake — connected cars are coming, and with the other aforementioned safety features we already have on new cars, autonomous cars are coming too. Safety and efficiency are the top goals for both regulators and car companies, and this solves both. It's ambitious for sure, but it's happening for real.