Talking Cars….Futuristic Dream or Current Safety Device?

It’s fair to say that most of us, whether we admit it or not, talk to our cars at some stage or another. Often, this is to express irritation or frustration with a perceived slight the vehicle has committed, like failing to start on a bitterly cold morning, or stalling in heavy traffic, or failing to achieve its alleged miles per gallon target. Sometimes, it’s to express affection, after the car has been washed and polished and is looking its best.

In most cases, the vehicles do us the favor of not talking back, but how would we feel if cars started talking to each other? Is this taking things too far? What’s next—the coffee maker synchronizing with the toaster? Well, as it turns out, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has recently released statistics that show the majority of drivers would be in favor of using technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other to avoid collisions, and this could be happening a lot sooner than you might expect.

Wi-Fi to prevent crashes

Tests have been carried out to see what drivers who have experienced technology that permits vehicles to “talk” to each other think of introducing such safety measures on a broad scale. Results to date, say the DOT, have been extremely positive in terms of driver reaction.

In a joint venture between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Research and Innovation Technology Administration (RITA) and the auto industry, along with a number of state and federal partners, research has been ongoing to see if it would be possible to introduce “connected vehicle technology” that would allow cars to communicate with each other using Wi-Fi like technology to take over in situations where a crash seems imminent. This technology, researchers claim, could help prevent crashes altogether if introduced on a massive level.

The main points of the DOT report are these:

  • Six driver acceptance clinics were held in different centers right across the country between August, 2011, and January, 2012.
  • In all, 688 drivers participated in tests of vehicle-to-vehicle communication. Feedback from these drivers was reported at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s annual meeting.
  • The overwhelming majority of drivers not only approve of the technology, but an amazing 82 percent said they want to have it in their own vehicles as soon as possible.
  • Virtually all those involved in the test (more than 90 percent of those who took part in the study) believe the technology would definitely improve driver safety.

National Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Safety is our top priority, and we are always looking for ways that innovating technology can be harnessed to improve driver safety.” Commenting on the results of the vehicle-to-vehicle communication study, LaHood said, “Connected vehicle technology offers tremendous promise for improving safety (as well as) reducing traffic jams and increasing fuel efficiency. It’s encouraging to see that most drivers agree and want this technology in their cars.”

How the technology works

While the driver would obviously still be the primary controller of the vehicle, the connected vehicle technology has features that would help avoid collisions, mostly through communication to the driver. These include:

  • Features that would alert a driver about other cars approaching at an intersection
  • Warnings to the driver of impending or even possible forward collisions
  • Notifications to the driver that vehicles in the vicinity are changing lanes
  • Alerts when a car or other vehicle has moved into the driver’s blind spot

“Vehicle-to-vehicle technologies have the potential to significantly reduce fatalities and injuries in crashes and could one day help motorists avoid crashes altogether,” according to NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “These technologies may prove to be the next game-changer as we look at the future of auto safety,” he said.

Phase Two this summer

NHTSA and RITA are going to take the Connected Vehicle tests to the next level, when they introduce a year-long test of up to 3,000 equipped vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, starting this summer. In addition, some vehicles will have technology that would allow them to communicate with sensors built into the roadway. The crash-avoidance technologies that will be tested on the open roads include:

  • “Do not pass” alerts
  • Warnings of vehicles ahead that have suddenly slowed or stopped
  • In-vehicle forward collision warnings

Officials across the board are now convinced that complete communications systems between drivers, vehicles and roadways are not just attainable, but that they offer the greatest potential for saving lives and reducing injuries on the nation’s roadways. They also say the possibilities are too great to ignore. “We want to build a solid foundation for the next generation of transportation through consistent standards, reliable technology, and policy work that ensures when the technology is ready, the general public will be ready as well,” said RITA Acting Administrator Gregory D. Winfree.

The automotive industry seems to be in broad agreement with those sentiments. No fewer than eight major manufacturers are already on board with the DOT, taking part in the ongoing research into vehicle-to-vehicle communication. They include Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen, and if the tests over the next 12 months are positive, it’s possible that regulations regarding connected vehicle technology being introduced on a broad scale could be looked at as early as late-2013.

Portland car accident attorneys welcome the results of this study, and are in favor of anything that will reduce the number of injuries and deaths on Oregon roads. For now, crashes occur every day, and people continue to be seriously injured and, sadly in many tragic cases, killed on our roads.

If you’ve been a victim of a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault, you should get the medical treatment you need as a number one priority. After that, contact an experienced Portland car accident attorney for help. The consultation is free, and you can get all your questions answered. If you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, a good personal injury lawyer will guide you through the process and make sure you get the compensation you and your family deserve.