It is truly amazing that cars aren’t smashing into each other all the time, given the road rage and driver distraction we witness on a daily basis. However, there is vast room for improvement. The end goal? Zero fatalities on the road.
Is it possible?
Probably once autonomous vehicles are in their second generation and multiple redundancies have been built in. Until then? NHTSA announced today that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles. This technology would improve safety by allowing vehicles to “talk” to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes altogether by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.
“Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we’ve already seen with safety belts and air bags,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “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.”
I witnessed the birth of ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) and Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC). The safety applications currently being developed provide warnings to drivers so that they can prevent imminent collisions, but do not automatically operate any vehicle systems, such as braking or steering. NHTSA is also considering future actions on active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors. Those technologies are eventually expected to blend with the V2V technology. NHTSA issued an Interim Statement of Policy in 2013 explaining its approach to these various streams of innovation. In addition to enhancing safety, these future applications and technologies could help drivers to conserve fuel and save time.
V2V technology does not involve exchanging or recording personal information or tracking vehicle movements. The information sent between vehicles does not identify those vehicles, but merely contains basic safety data. 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.
“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 Acting Administrator David Friedman. “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.”
Perhaps so- but don’t look for the technology anytime soon. Remember rear view monitors were supposed to be standard equipment last year. But six years down the road we may see the first vehicles hitting the streets. Now if only everyone got on board…
NHTSA is currently finalizing its analysis of the data gathered as part of its year-long pilot program and will publish a research report on V2V communication technology for public comment in the coming weeks. The report will include analysis of the Department’s research findings in several key areas including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. NHTSA 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. DOT 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.
“We are pleased with the direction NHTSA is taking in terms of V2V technology,” said Greg Winfree, Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology. “The decision to move forward comes after years of dedicated research into the overwhelming safety benefits provided by a connected vehicle environment.”
V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with 360-degree situational awareness to address additional crash situations – including those, for example, in which a driver needs to decide if it is safe to pass on a two-lane road (potential head-on collision), make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic, or in which a vehicle approaching at an intersection appears to be on a collision course. In those situations, V2V communications can detect threats hundreds of yards from other vehicles that cannot be seen, often in situations in which on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat.
NHTSA has worked in close partnership in this research both with other DOT agencies, including the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and the Federal Highway Administration, and with several leading auto manufacturers and academic research institutions, who have invested significant resources into developing and testing V2V technology. The collaboration of government, industry and academia is critical to ensure V2V technology’s interoperability across vehicles.