Image courtesy of NHTSA

Image courtesy of NHTSA

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced yesterday [Monday] that it will be issuing rules requiring all new cars to have technology that lets them communicate with each other to avoid accidents, as Kevin Robillard reports for Politico. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he hopes to complete the mandate before the end of President Obama’s second term, Robillard writes.

The technology will do a lot to prevent accidents, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) press release says:

‘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.’

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology can prevent rear-end and lane-change auto crashes, as well as those that occur at intersections, according to NHTSA. In August 2012, the Transportation department began a “Safety Pilot” program in Ann Arbor, Mich., in which it tested nearly 3,000 vehicles in the “largest-ever” test of V2V systems, NHTSA writes. The program demonstrated that the technology works — between vehicles from different carmakers, and in real-world environments.

NHTSA writes that those who participated in the tests said they would like to have such systems in their vehicles, and trumpets the technology’s lifesaving potential:

‘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.’

DOT estimates that V2V systems could prevent four out of every five crashes that do not involve impaired drivers, Politico writes. In addition to the cars communicating with each other, the technology would allow them to communicate with infrastructure such as traffic lights, Politico writes.

In the next few weeks, NHTSA plans to publish a report based on the yearlong pilot program it conducted. The report will cover the agency’s findings regarding technical feasibility, privacy and security, as well as preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. After publishing the report, NHTSA will begin working on a proposal to require the technology on all new cars “in a future year,” Politico writes, noting that DOT said it hopes the announcement will encourage companies to take action to develop the technology.

As this blog reported last October, in an unusual move among companies that typically compete with one another, carmakers have cooperated to bring about connected vehicle technology. However, Politico writes, the auto industry has been concerned about excessive regulation of V2V technology. In spite of that, most major carmakers supplied cars for the Ann Arbor study.

Robillard notes that V2V systems and driverless cars rely on similar technology and will both prevent accidents. He writes that Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) raised concerns about hackers using V2V technology to cause accidents. NHTSA said it had started a new office to deal with potential threats, Robillard writes.

Regarding security and privacy, NHTSA’s press release says:

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.

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