US road safety legislators have outlined a plan to demand all new cars and trucks be able to intercommunicate wirelessly, with the aim of reducing car accidents through a dynamically-evolving mesh network detailing location, direction, and speed. The Vehicle-2-Vehicle (V2V) scheme revealed by the NHTSA would not, at least initially, allow cars to react independently to potential dangers out of view of their human drivers, though future iterations of the system could well tap into brake-assistance, lane-guidance, and other technologies showing up in modern vehicles.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the focus for road safety is shifting from one of ensuring drivers and passengers survive crashes, to where incidents themselves are avoided. Rather than simply throwing more airbags and other safety kit into new cars and trucks, the NHTSA envisages vehicles that collaborate on the road so as to drive more safely overall.
That communication would be anonymous, and not contain any specific location data linked to the driver themselves, only relative information about where a car was in terms of another. The NHTSA envisages "several layers of security and privacy protection" to make sure that stays the case.
The exact nature of the hardware has not been detailed - the results of a year-long pilot study where 3,000 cars were equipped with transponders that pinged out their location ten times a second are still being analyzed - but would extend the safety awareness of even the most well-equipped modern cars considerably. V2V technology would mean identifying possible hazards at a range of hundreds of yards away, the NHTSA suggests, far greater than the onboard radar, IR, and other sensors some cars come fitted with today.
According to the AP, the technology involved is expected to add around $100-200 to the price of a new car.
The NHTSA isn't the only organization that sees a future in cars that can talk to each other. Back in 2012, Toyota began trials with a 9 acre site in Japan where cars could talk to the road, to signs, and to each other; Mercedes, meanwhile, announced plans for Car-to-X enabled models last year. An optional extra, Mercedes' system would fire off localized warnings and notifications about crashes, broken-down vehicles, police cars, animals in the road, and other potential perils nearby.
Meanwhile, we had a chance to ride along with Ford's V2V system last month at CES 2014, which uses dashboard lights and sounds - as well as a vibrating seat - to notify the driver of possible issues.
The technology is one important step closer to the idea of autonomous vehicles populating the roads, as Nissan's R&D chief suggested to us when we tried out the self-driving Leaf EV. Nissan is also looking at how existing cars could be equipped with V2V technology so that they too would be linked into the mesh safety network.
VIA The Verge