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The Day When Your Car Refuses to Crash

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications is a system for transmitting basic safety information between vehicles travelling on the same roadway to minimize, if not wholly prevent, the possibility of them crashing into one another.  Road Rules has written about V2V but the topic has not received much coverage in the mainstream media, buried as it has been in technology development and study of its feasibility, implementation, costs/benefits—necessary for any such massive shift in safety systems.

In mid-March, in fact, we learned in a notice issued jointly by the US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that they have been researching for more than a decade.  This notice also references a 300+ page report (‘the report’) on the readiness of V2V for application, online at Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: Readiness of V2V Technology for Application.

The report begins by distinguishing between V2V communications and the current ‘vehicle-resident’ crash-avoidance technologies, like, for example, electronic stability control, and the “host of on-board sensors, cameras, and radar applications that either warn drivers of impending danger so that the driver can take corrective action or intervene on the driver’s behalf.”

The report describes V2V as follows:  “On-board dedicated short-range radio communication devices … transmit messages about a vehicle’s speed, heading, brake status, and other information to other vehicles and receive the same information from the messages, with range and “line-of-sight” capabilities that exceed current and near-term “vehicle-resident” systems …[by] nearly twice the range. This longer detection distance and ability to “see” around corners or “through” other vehicles helps V2V-equipped vehicles perceive some threats sooner … and warn their drivers accordingly.”

Based on the results of the “Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model Deployment” the report contains much ‘good news’.  Essentially the system ‘worked’: —the devices installed in the vehicles were able to transmit and receive messages; the security management system, and the particular safety applications worked.  The NHSTA has the regulatory authority to mandate the system.

Cost estimates based on the implementation of the system by the 2020s were detailed down to the per vehicle costs for the equipment and additional fuel due to increased vehicle weight, and up to the billion-dollar levels for the overall system.  Likewise, the projected safety impact was significant. Based on just two of the many possible safety applications—the Intersection Movement Assist and the Left Turn Assist— annual projections were for the prevention of 25,000 to 592,000 crashes, the saving of 49 to 1,083 lives, the avoidance of 11,000 to 270,000 … injuries, and the reduction of 31,000 to 728,000 property-damage-only crashes once V2V technology is incorporated throughout the entire vehicle fleet.

Of course, the report also outlines the many hurdles to implementation, and the many “additional items [that will] need to be in place.”  In covering this ‘story’, the mainstream media focused in particular on the “sharing the spectrum” problem, V2V communications currently using a radio frequency band currently under consideration by the US Federal Communications Commission for usage by devices under its jurisdiction.

The report concludes with a call for further investigation into various aspects of V2V technology and further identified research to move toward deployment.  While the challenges are great and the timeline uncertain, the successful outcome of this technological development is inevitable.

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