Illustration of connected vehicle technology, courtesy of

Illustration of connected vehicle technology, courtesy of

In a move that traffic safety advocates have been looking forward to, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has started the process that will eventually require all cars and light trucks to be electronically connected to each other on the roads, according to news reports. In a press release, the department said on Monday that it has released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), along with a comprehensive research report on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology. (There is a link to the downloadable report on the press release page.)

The ANPRM invites public feedback on the report’s findings regarding V2V, which include its technical feasibility, privacy and security, and initial estimates of its safety benefits and costs, the release says. Stressing that safety is the DOT’s top priority, DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx said, “This technology could move us from helping people survive crashes to helping them avoid crashes altogether — saving lives, saving money and even saving fuel thanks to the widespread benefits it offers.”

NHTSA’s report estimates that V2V technology could prevent up to 592,000 intersection-related car accidents annually, saving 1,083 lives per year, via Left Turn Assist (LTA) and Intersection Movement Assist (IMA). The press release says:

LTA warns drivers not to turn left in front of another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction and IMA warns them if it is not safe to enter an intersection due to a high probability of colliding with one or more vehicles.

And there are other applications that could help drivers avoid forward crashes, blind-spot accidents, and hazards related to “do not pass” and stop light/stop sign warnings, the release says.

V2V works by using a radio signal that is continuously transmitting a vehicle’s position, speed, and other information to other cars and trucks that also have V2V technology, writes Joan Lowy for The Boston Globe. The equipped vehicles would alert their drivers when a crash was about to happen, she adds.

Lowy writes that the technology works up to about 300 yards away, adding:

A car would ‘see’ when another car or truck was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle were hidden around a corner. A car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert the driver, even before the brake lights are illuminate.

And once state and local governments decide to invest in infrastructure to support V2V technology, roadways and traffic lights could also communicate with vehicles, cautioning drivers about upcoming traffic congestion or road hazards, Lowy writes. She notes that V2V is different from, but compatible with, automated safety features using sensors and radar that some newer cars — especially high-end ones — have already. And she points out that if V2V technology makes driving safer, that would help self-driving cars (which are in the test phase) to be safer as well.

The NHTSA makes it clear that any information sent between vehicles is only about safety, and does not identify those vehicles. The system would contain several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure that vehicles can trust the information coming from other vehicles, the release says. The agency is working towards delivering a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by 2016, the release says.

The promise of V2V technology was apparent at least a year ago, as this blog reported in July 2013:

Data being collected in a connected vehicles study by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) means “we could be at the verge” of a transformation of surface transportation safety, mobility, and environmental performance, said the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, as Jayne O’Donnell and Megan Kowalski report for USA TODAY.

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