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Vehicle-to-vehicle communication: It’s not as far-fetched as you think

While seat belts and air bags were developed to minimize the catastrophic effects of a car accident, the next generation of vehicle safety aims to prevent collisions before they occur. The U.S. government recently announced upcoming car-to-car communication requirements that could save thousands of lives. But are we ready for talking cars?

Talking cars: Coming soon to a road near you

Earlier this year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx held a press conference, and he announced that U.S. regulators will soon begin developing regulations to mandate that all new vehicles sold in the U.S. come equipped with wireless chips enabling them to communicate over the airwaves. When implemented, Foxx said car-to-car communication (also called vehicle-to-vehicle communication or V2V or V2X) could prevent 70 to 80 percent of crashes involving unimpaired drivers. Sounds pretty good, right?

V2V communication: How it works

So, how does this V2V communication work? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “V2V Communications for Safety” is the dynamic wireless exchange of data between nearby vehicles. Think of it as a “WiFi-like” system with each car transmitting its position, speed and location 10 times per second. This network of equipped vehicles would continually monitor the location and speed of other vehicles, enabling them to anticipate and avoid a possible collision. Several automakers have already begun to implement such systems, but with this new government push, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will set the standard to ensure that vehicles from different companies are all speaking the same language.

Reaction from the car companies

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, carmakers’ main lobbying group in Washington, says the group recognizes the benefits of the technology, but that its members would prefer a voluntary agreement to a government mandate. Requiring all new cars to operate on the same wireless network involves ironing out pretty significant issues — security and privacy concerns, consumer acceptance, affordability and the necessary legal and regulatory framework, to name a few.

Katherine Yehl, Volvo Car Corporation’s director of government affairs, says critical mass is also needed to make V2V effective. “Reliable information of vehicles in conflict will only occur once the penetration is close to 100 percent.” This will also affect customer acceptance, she adds.

Privacy concerns

There are those who fear the government will use this “Big Brother” technology to keep tabs on its citizens, how they drive and where they drive. With the recent spate of hackers breaking into sophisticated government and corporate systems, there are also concerns that this information could fall into the wrong hands.

Next steps

V2V communication is merely the first step in the quest for a truly connected car. Car companies like Volvo are already working on concepts that take car connectivity to the next level, exploring cars that park themselves, limited-time “digital keys” that allow vehicle owners to have food or other items delivered directly to their cars and even driverless cars.

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Photo credit: Adam Hester/Photodisc/Getty Images

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