Officials Look To The Future Of Vehicle Communications Technology

Posted on February 4, 2014

Many of the crashes that occur throughout the country happen at intersections.  Cars are either unable to stop in time at a red light or they willfully drive through.  Drivers trying to turn left may underestimate how fast an incoming vehicle is traveling, or they may simply overlook the presence of something like a motorcycle.  And someone turning right may think they have the opportunity to turn because an incoming vehicle is in the far lane when that car is actually scooting over to the right.

The government and private enterprises have been thinking up ways to reduce this threat, and today those efforts appear to have borne fruit.  Yesterday, the Transportation Secretary of the United States announced the Transportation Department’s intention to push for Vehicle to Vehicle technology in the coming years.  If widely implemented, these systems could help prevent the types of crashes described above.

They help avert disaster by way of radio communications between vehicles.  Imagine that the road you’re driving on is replaced with a blank grid, with all nearby buildings and other obstacles wiped off the board.  Then imagine every car on that grid is represented by a dot emitting a frequency that can travel up to 300 yards.  Now, if one dot is approaching an intersection and looks to be traveling fast enough that their course would bring them directly into another dot, those two dots would detect each other and be able to hit the brakes accordingly to eliminate the risk of an accident.

This is the latest salvo in the Department of Transportation’s bid to move toward a more preventative approach to automobile safety.  In years past, much of their efforts focused on making vehicles more able to withstand collisions once they occur.  With this newest bid for safety, the agency believes that four out of every five fatalities that take place every year could be averted.

Research geared toward this technology has been ongoing in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where officials have been able to keep track of 3,000 automobiles outfitted with the technology.  If plans continue apace, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that they could enact standards related to the technology by the time the President leaves office in a few years.

There is still work to be done to be sure.  Automobile manufacturers will need to start adopting these systems within the vehicles, and the time this would take is one of the reasons the Transportation Department is making the announcement so early, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s president.  And before the technology can roll out universally, the Transportation Department is asking the FCC to safeguard that part of the radio spectrum that these V2V systems would use.

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