Car-to-car talk: Hey, look out for that collision! (Update 3)

Feb 03, 2014 by Joan Lowy
This May 22, 2012 file photo shows a side mirror warning signal in a Ford Taurus at an automobile testing area in Oxon Hill, Md. Federal officials are planning to announce Monday whether automakers should be required to equip new cars and light trucks with technology that enables vehicles to communicate with each other to prevent collisions. Such vehicle-to-vehicle communication could eventually transform traffic safety. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

A car might see a deadly crash coming even if its driver doesn't, the U.S. government says, indicating it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they're plunging toward peril.

The action, still some years off, has "game-changing potential" to cut collisions, deaths and injuries, federal transportation officials said at a news conference Monday.

A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars, and a vehicle's computer would alert its driver to an impending collision. Alerts could be a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver's seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. Your car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights The technology works up to about 300 yards.

If communities choose to invest in the technology, roadways and traffic lights could start talking to cars, too, sending warnings of traffic congestion or road hazards ahead in time for drivers to take a detour.

The technology is separate from automated safety features using sensors and radar that are already being built into some high-end vehicles today and which are seen as the basis for future self-driving cars. But government and industry officials see the two technologies as compatible. If continuous conversations between cars make driving safer, then self-driving cars will become safer as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been working with automakers on the technology for the past decade, estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don't involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.

Crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher accounted for nearly a third of the 33,500 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, according to the safety agency.

The technology represents the start of a new era in automotive safety in which the focus is "to prevent crashes in the first place," as compared with previous efforts to ensure accidents are survivable, said David Friedman, the head of the agency.

No orders to automakers are imminent, officials said.

After an agency report, the public and carmakers will have 90 days to comment, then regulators will begin drafting a proposal, and that process could take months to years. But Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it is his intention to issue the proposal before President Barack Obama leaves office.

"It will change driving as we know it over time," said Scott Belcher, president and chief executive of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. "Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash."

Government officials declined to give an estimate for how much the technology would increase the price of a new car, but the transportation society estimates it would cost about $100 to $200 per vehicle.

Automakers are enthusiastic about vehicle-to-vehicle technology but feel there are important technical, security and privacy questions that need to be worked out first, said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

The technology "may well play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together," she said.

The technology the government is contemplating contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure the information exchanged between vehicles doesn't identify them but merely contains basic safety data, officials said.

The safety benefits can't be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology. It takes many years to turn over the nation's entire vehicle fleet, but the technology could start preventing accidents before that.

Safety benefits can be seen with as few at 7 percent to 10 percent of vehicles in a given area similarly equipped, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the transportation society, an umbrella organization for the research and development of new transportation technologies.

There may be another way to speed things up, according to a presentation last year by the communications technology company Qualcomm. About 45 percent of Americans use smartphones, and that share is growing. If smartphones, which already have GPS, came equipped with a radio chip they could be used to retrofit vehicles already on the road so they could talk to each other. That would help make it possible to achieve a 50 percent market penetration in less than five years, Qualcomm estimated.

Using cellphones could also extend the safety benefits of connected-car technology to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, Belcher said. A driver could be alerted to a possible collision with a pedestrian carrying a smartphone sending out information, even if it was too dark to see the person. More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed by vehicles and 76,000 injured in 2012.

But there are significant technical and standardization hurdles to using cellphones to support connected-car technology. Cellphone battery life, for example, a need for antennas, questions about radio frequencies and concern that cellphone GPS functions might not be as precise as those in a vehicle manufactured with special technology.

Explore further: Safer vehicles brake and steer out of harm's way

More information: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration —icsw.nhtsa.gov/safercar/ConnectedVehicles/

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TheGhostofOtto1923
3.3 / 5 (4) Feb 03, 2014
It's not a matter of IF but WHEN. The only question is whether there is any advantage in waiting until the tech further matures, and how it can integrate with autonomous driving systems.
RhoidSlayer
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 03, 2014
mandatory government wiretaps and auto disabling , you live to serve the empire
RhoidSlayer
1 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2014
you watch , in the future , your security permit won't let you drive except in permitted gps locations
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2014
you watch , in the future , your security permit won't let you drive except in permitted gps locations
The law and insurance companies already restrict where and what and if you can drive. Thats why they call it a privilege instead of a right.
RhoidSlayer
4 / 5 (3) Feb 03, 2014
The law and insurance companies already restrict where and what and if you can drive. Thats why they call it a privilege instead of a right.

so maybe you should have assumed I meant more than the obvious .
like maybe your drivers license only authorizes your vehicle to travel up to 30 miles from home , charges your account another $100 for a travel permit to vegas , and you can't drive to D.C. at all .

this america , the land of stop and frisk and the nickle and dimed ,
and once the government gets its nose up under your skirt , they go for the full monty
CreepyD
not rated yet Feb 04, 2014
I don't see how this will save anyone, and I agree it's likely just so they can track everyone.
Imagine it, you're driving along, and this alarm / buzzer / whatever it is goes off.. Ok I'm going to crash, but into what?! I can't see anything!
99.9% of the time by the time you've realised it's beeping and spotted the danger you've already crashed.
Pointless.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2014
like maybe your drivers license only authorizes your vehicle to travel up to 30 miles from home , charges your account another $100 for a travel permit to vegas , and you can't drive to D.C. at all
"NHTSA wants ignition lockouts for first-time DUI offenders"

"When a driver has a license suspended for a DUI, the court may allow the driver to use a restricted driver's license ... will allow the driver to drive to and from a place of employment, school, drug or alcohol treatment and other destinations defined by the court."

"States that a person subject to an electronic GPS, or other
monitoring device based on a felony conviction, juvenile
adjudication for a felony... who willfully removes or
disables that device is guilty of a felony"

-GPS will also allow insurance companies to adjust your rates in real time based on how and where you drive. Sure you can drive to DC but it WILL cost you.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Feb 04, 2014
And the above tech will make it easier for them to track, record, and analyze just how you drive, how attentive and compulsive you are, and how many difficult situations you get yourself into.

We won't need speed cams because the cars themselves will be reporting how often you speed as well as your tailgating, cutting off, running red lights, crossing the center line, illegal turning, etc.

Tickets, fines, and rate hikes will be automatic and instantaneous. Perhaps reckless driving will cause instant shutdown to the shoulder while you wait to be arrested.

Many drivers will welcome autonomous vehicles under this pressure and many will simply have no other option.
RhoidSlayer
1 / 5 (1) Feb 04, 2014
Sure you can drive to DC but it WILL cost you.
try getting off the TSA "no drive list' , lol

naive cattle just lining up for the milking
triplehelix
not rated yet Feb 05, 2014
"Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner."

Same technology...Hmmm...Even if all vehicles were to be given this technology, cars would still exist without it, and considering a large portion of the population cannot afford new tech cars like these, many won't have that technology.

Then come the updates, when newer tech comes around with new software that requires a completely new car or computer in said car...Very pricey. Then comes the inevitable software glitches, mishaps, and crashes (software crashes). Misinterpretation of data etc. Also, it costs me £300 just to get Suzuki to run their little gizmoid to get a list of the current errors the ECU has noticed.

I don't see this becoming too widespread that soon.

TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2014
see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light
Eventually this tech will prevent people from running red lights which is the whole point. Insurance companies will tell you that people cannot be trusted to drive cars, fly planes pilot ships, drive trains, run construction equipt, etc when there is a better alternative.
portion of the population cannot afford new tech cars like these, many won't have that technology
They said this about airbags, and automatic transmissions, and turn signals for that matter.
when newer tech comes around with new software that requires a completely new car or computer in said car..
Newer software is compatible on older computers yes? These systems will be designed to be backwards compatible.
Very pricey
They said this about this about airbags, and automatic transmissions, and turn signals.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Feb 05, 2014
mandatory government wiretaps and auto disabling

Depends on how it's implemented. While I share your disquiet at the possibilities for mischief one could envision a very passive system like in medical robotics, where the system is not allowed to act on its own bust just give information/feedback to the user.

The tracking aspect is worrysome. I'd rather have anonymized personal transport vehicles (even with active control). While those could be hacked just as easily the hacking couldn't be targetted as easily.
triplehelix
not rated yet Feb 06, 2014
"They said this about airbags, and automatic transmissions, and turn signals for that matter."

No they didn't. Also, car turn signals took decades to implement into mainstream car use. And Auto transmission cars are still thousands more expensive.

"Newer software is compatible on older computers yes? These systems will be designed to be backwards compatible."

Sometimes it is compatible, mostly, it isn't. As the software becomes more complex it is going to need more updated hardware. Many vehicles ECU's are updated every 2-3 years so you need to find your years model ECU for any repairs or replacements.

I don't like computers in vehicles, because they continuously break, to the point where I now only have vehicles that are a lump and chassis, and they go on, and on, and on without some sensor having a hissy fit and shutting the entire thing down because a spec of dirt through a calibration off, which costs £1500 for a man to plug in a machine and wash a sensor. < Genuine case.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2014
The tracking aspect is worrysome. I'd rather have anonymized personal transport vehicles
Many owners are opting for the privilege of being tracked and monitored.

"All Stolen Vehicle Assistance services (Stolen Vehicle Tracking, Stolen Vehicle Slowdown and Remote Ignition Block) can be requested by the OnStar subscriber, but OnStar will not activate them until confirming with the police that the vehicle has been reported as stolen.

"OnStar subscribers may be eligible for anti-theft and low mileage insurance discounts. Since OnStar can help with the recovery of a stolen vehicle, some insurance companies recognize this and offer a discount. Also, with certain insurance companies (for example, GMAC Insurance) and with subscriber permission, OnStar will send the insurance company the vehicle's odometer reading every month. If the subscriber qualifies as a low-mileage driver."

-Soon you wont be able to afford the kind of insurance needed to be 'anonymous'.
Eikka
not rated yet Feb 08, 2014
A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information.


Yeah.

No.