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Federal Study: Testers Overwhelmingly Favor Connected Vehicle Technology

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that a large majority of the people who tested connected driving technology think it is a good thing, according to a recent study. The research, whose results were released on Tuesday at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s 2012 Annual Meeting, found that 82% of the 688 drivers who tested the new auto technology “strongly agreed that they would like to have vehicle-to-vehicle safety features on their personal vehicle,” a DOT press release states.

And more than 90% of the testers said that several of the connected vehicle technology features would improve driving in non-test situations (“in the real world”). According to the study, those include systems that:

  • alert drivers when other cars are approaching an intersection,
  • warn drivers of possible forward collisions, and
  • notify drivers of cars that are changing lanes or moving into a driver’s blind spot.

The research data comes from six “driver acceptance clinics” that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Research and Innovation Technology Administration (RITA) held between August 2011 and January 2012 to gather feedback from the 688 drivers who tested cars equipped with connected driving technology. The testing was done in Michigan, Minnesota, Florida, Virginia, Texas, and California, as Cheryl Jensen reports in The New York Times blog Wheels.

NHTSA and RITA have been conducting their work with state and federal partners and the auto industry, including Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes Benz, Nissan, Toyota, and Volkswagen. The clinics — the first phase of the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Program — were created to research the effectiveness and feasibility of connected vehicle technology that makes it possible for vehicles to “talk” to one another with WiFi-like technology that could help prevent car accidents altogether.

The second phase of the program will be launched this summer, when tests of crash-avoidance technology will be done on approximately 3,000 vehicles that are equipped with systems including forward-collision warnings, “do not pass” alerts, and warnings that a vehicle ahead has stopped suddenly. This second phase will take place on roads in Ann Arbor, MI, and will also involve several applications in which vehicles communicate with the roadway.

Based on the information it collects from the Safety Pilot program, NHTSA will determine by 2013 whether to proceed with additional vehicle-to-vehicle communication activities, including possible future rulemakings.

NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “The reason why we are so excited about this is, is that this technology, when fully deployed, can address up to 80 percent of crash scenarios involving not-impaired drivers,” as Matthew Larotonda reports in the ABC News blog Technology Review.

However, Jensen notes that most of the people who participated in the tests were not happy with the cost of the technology:

A majority of drivers said they would not want to pay even a modest sum for the technology. Asked whether they would pay ‘more than $250’ for a suite of vehicle-to-vehicle safety features, 100 percent of participants indicated that was too dear a price. Depending on the automaker, a blind-spot detection system alone can be a $700 stand-alone option, as it is for the Volvo S60 sedan, or bundled as part of an option package costing several thousand dollars.

Image by United States Department of Transportation, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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