US unveils legislation for car to car safety communication

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While the UK and other European countries might be opening our arms in welcome to the robot overlords that are automated cars, the US is interestingly being far more cautious. Driverless technologies like lane assist, automatic braking and pedestrian detection systems have been in use here for some time and there’s plans for much more besides, but it’s taken US legislators a long time to come on board. Finally it seems, they’re starting to accept that handing over at least some control to some clever automated systems is a boon, rather than a hindrance.

In a move that surprised many, US legislators have unveiled a plan to make it mandatory for all new vehicles to include wireless connectivity that will mean all cars can communicate dangers to one another. If there’s a crash up ahead, the cars in-front of you will send information back to your vehicle to let you know there’s trouble up ahead. This could theoretically be twinned with technology like automated braking to bring everyone to a much slower pace in the event of an accident.

Other uses include warning drivers if someone is about to run a red light (potentially hitting them) and informing them that they don’t have enough time to make a left hand turn.

“Safety is our top priority, and Vehicle to Vehicle technology represents the next great advance in saving lives,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in an announcement (via Autonews). “This technology could move us from helping people survive crashes to helping them avoid crashes altogether.”

v2v

Current vehicle to vehicle sensor technology can have cars swapping information about themselves about 10 times per second, transmitting information such as speed and heading, which would allow two opposing vehicles to figure out if they’re set to hit one another, potentially preventing an accident automatically if there isn’t time, or informing the driver otherwise.

However, what features are eventually added to the V2V hardware will be up to the automakers. While legislators plan to make it mandatory for their inclusion in the vehicles, it will be down to the individual manufacturers to choose what they can actually do in the real world. This may lead to many not implementing as much as others, as the sensors and communication tools are said to cost upwards of $300 each to implement, with presumably the more feature-filled versions costing more.

There are also likely to be different quirks that each manufacturer applies, as Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and many others have all been developing their own vehicle to vehicle communication tools. How they will work together and whether they will evenly share information remains to be seen.

Regardless, most seem to be in agreement that this is a step in the right direction, with John Bozzella, CEO of Washington lobby group Global Automakers suggesting: “NHTSA’s kickoff of the rule-making process for V2V communications demonstrates the country is well on its way to deploying this lifesaving technology.”

Companies like Cisco and Denso are expected to provide much of the underlying hardware of the V2V systems.

Image Source: Phraction

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.