'Talking' cars will soon be required in U.S.

What's the next generation's equivalent of the seat belt or airbag? Cars that can talk to each other.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor
In the United States, it's estimated that seat belts and airbags have saved hundreds of thousands of lives [pdf]. 

Now the U.S. Department of Transportation wants to make the next big impact on vehicle safety by eventually requiring new cars to be able to talk to each other. It's not clear exactly when this new mandate will be made, but, according to Reuters, it could come as early as 2017.

U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that it is moving forward with plans to enable vehicle-to-vehicle communication technology (V2V) in light vehicles. The technology allows cars to share important safety data -- like location and speed of nearby vehicles -- that, the NHTSA says, could eliminate or reduce the severity of 80 percent of crashes involving non-impaired drivers. 

"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, in a press release. "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."

Still, there will be challenges to address before V2V technology plays the vital role in safety that the government imagines it will one day, as Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers said today in response to the announcement.

"[Dedicated short-range communications] radios may well play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together. What remains to be addressed is security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the ‘network effect’ and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework." 

But as Wired points out, the transition to new cars with V2V technology won't be incredibly jarring for most automakers since nearly all of them are already in the midst of developing the technology -- including Ford which is looking to space robots to improve its V2V technology.

The U.S. government spent the last year conducting the largest-ever road test of V2V technology, with 3,000 connected cars. 

Photo: U.S. DOT

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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