Talking Cars Hit The Road: How Did They Do?

When you’re driving, what should you be most afraid of? Surprisingly, the answer is, “what you don’t know.” Is somebody behind that blind curve? Is the guy in front of me about to brake suddenly? Is somebody about to speed through this intersection? What you don’t know can kill you… so the government is testing technology that will allow your car to talk to other vehicles and keep you as knowledgeable as possible.

What Will Talking Cars Do?
The next revolution in car safety technology is your car chatting with the other cars around it. The dream of many in Detroit and Silicon Valley is to create a network protocol between all cars on the road. With this protocol, cars can detect traffic problems, accidents, sudden braking ahead, and all sorts of other possible hazards to let you know and allow you to take action before they become dangerous. For example, with this system, you’d know if there was another car about to drive into the blind intersection you’re approaching.

They can also “talk” to infrastructure points to get traffic and accident data. The entire idea is essentially to prevent what causes accidents in the first place: sudden changes in speed, unexpected problems, and so on. Auto insurance companies must be thrilled!

The potential of this technology is enormous. Some believe that it could essentially put an end to unimpaired driving accidents. Even the government is bullish about the possibilities: They believe this technology could stop four out of every five accidents where both drivers are unimpaired, but simply uninformed.

But, in order for this technology to be released in every-day vehicles, it has to be tested. And one of those tests just finished up.

Grading the Test
The test was conducted in Ann Arbor, MI, which, in addition to being a lovely town with a good college, had 3,000 cars testing these vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) systems. Drivers had the technology in their cars for a year, telling them what was going on around them and generally keeping them informed of conditions out of their line of sight. So… did they pass?

We’re not sure yet. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has collected the data and is crunching the numbers. What the NHTSA is looking for is a reduction in both overall crashes and the severity of those crashes. If the number of accidents in Ann Arbor is down, and if among the accidents that happened, fewer people were killed or seriously injured, the NHTSA will likely recommend that the Department of Transportation make V2V technology standard on all cars.

Will My Next Car Talk?
Truthfully, this integration could take a few years: Government acts exceedingly slowly, as anybody who is getting a tax refund knows all too well.

What we do know, however, is what drivers think of it. And there it passes with flying colors: 9 out of 10 want the technology permanently installed in their cars.

It’s likely that V2V will become standard even if it only reduces accidents a little. The appeal of the feature is just too great for carmakers, especially if they’re able to tout it as your very own traffic-jam avoidance device. If that also means that a few more accidents are avoided… all the better.

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