U.S. Agencies Take Significant Step Toward Wirelessly Connecting Vehicles To One Another

3,824 4 Loading

usdot-v2v-alertsCars that retain their human drivers despite growing numbers of self-driving vehicles will gain automated safe-driving features in the United States, according to an announcement this week that U.S. federal agencies will encourage vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, communication technology for passenger vehicles.

The proposal relates to a kind of internet in which the connected computers are cars and trucks sharing data about speed, position and nearby traffic signals ten times a second in order to reduce accidents. If two cars on a three-lane road simultaneously attempted to switch into the center lane, for example, the V2V system could warn both drivers. Alternately, if a car two vehicles ahead brakes, the third driver could be alerted whether or not the middle driver braked immediately.

"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," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release.

usdot-v2v-network-featWithin the next few weeks, the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration will put forward a draft regulatory proposal that could go as far as to require V2V technology in future model years. The push comes in response to promising preliminary results of a year-long pilot program of 2,800 vehicles that ended in August.

If the system were to be adopted, vehicles already on the road could use add-on units to collect and share data, but new cars would integrate V2V into their own computerized systems.

The car net works on Dedicated Short Range Communications, a system similar to Wi-Fi but featuring a dedicated channel with low latency times. The V2V system now in testing cobbles together technology from multiple suppliers, put together by University of Michigan researchers. A shared protocol allows cars from different manufacturers to communicate with one another. As with any such standards, government agencies are needed to broker compliance.

More than 30,000 Americans die from traffic collisions every year. According to the DOT, the data points collected and shared through V2V could help drivers avoid four out of five crash scenarios that don’t involve drugs or alcohol. By giving information that would help them avoid traffic jams, it could also reduce congestion and the lost productivity associated with it.

"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,” said David Friedman, the acting administrator of the NHTSA.

usdot-v2xIn the form used in the pilot program, the V2V network connects vehicles to one another and shares information from nearby stoplights. Eventually, the system could support two-way communication between vehicles and infrastructure and vehicles and pedestrians (insiders call that next step V2X).

Consumer privacy has already emerged as a thorny issue, since the data points together could tell anyone with access to it where drivers are going, when they will get there and how safely they’re driving.

But end game for V2X apparently isn’t nabbing human drivers; it’s ensuring that the increasingly automated cars likely to dominate the roads by 2050 are safe drivers.

“You can have an automated vehicle, but if it's not communicating with other vehicles around it, then you really just have a vehicle acting in isolation,” Francine Romine, director of communications for the University of Michigan Transportation Institute, told Singularity Hub.

The Department of Transportation also appears to be thinking along these lines. “Many experts, including those here at USDOT, believe that V2X technology could be a building block to achieving safe and reliable highly automated and self‐driving automated vehicles,” a spokesman told Singularity Hub.

It's been only three years since Google first announced that it had built a self-driving car.

Images: U.S. Department of Transporation

Cameron Scott

Cameron received degrees in Comparative Literature from Princeton and Cornell universities. He has worked at Mother Jones, SFGate and IDG News Service and been published in California Lawyer and SF Weekly. He lives, predictably, in SF.

Discussion — 4 Responses

  • Facebook - richard.r.tryon February 5, 2014 on 6:05 pm

    If you like Obamacare, you will love this technology.

    It will eliminate car accidents and do away with body and fender workers jobs! Of course,it will force all cars to stay in lanes unless the computer allows your request to be honored. No lane change accidents as a result. It will also cause vehicles to be unable to get closer than calculated proximity to car ahead. Result no rear-ending can happen as computer brakes wlll stop or slow the car if you fail.

    End product, average miles traveled per hour will be as many as safely possible for all cars so controlled. But, number of cars to get to destination per hour will drop unless dynamic routing changes are included to emulate Puerto Rican driver knowledge rule#1. If the car will go there, it is ok! This means in a freeway traffic jam, its ok to drive down the grassy slope to the old road below to bypass the construction zone ahead where many others like to use the emergency shoulder lane to get to the next bottleneck of one of five overpasses too narrow to have a shoulder to drive upon.

    Of course, the good news is that many of these drivers will be fed in jail and get free medical and dental care plus all entitlements to avoid discomfort except when riding in a police van to see your lawyer to find ways to get out or stay longer as you wish.

  • Nolux February 6, 2014 on 9:18 am

    Yes, lets allow thousands of people to die on the highway to ensure that the auto body shops stay in business…. What!? Regardless of what you think an automated driving system is far safer system.
    Seatbelts? I ain’t wearing no seatbelts. Next thing you know the government is going to tell me I have to wear a Motorcycle helmet or some other evil socialist contraption!

  • goldbuyer16 February 12, 2014 on 5:09 pm

    I would love to sit in a car and read my ipad while i was going to work. But i fear its another way the government involves itself in our lives. let innovation take its time,when cars are able to do this, people will buy them without government intervention. I would.
    If you want to read more about this view you might want to donate to my book on kickstarter. Its called “Singularity Revolution” heres the url