Talking vehicles: US gov’t thinks cars should communicate

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The US Secretary of Transportation has announced a program aimed at installing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems in all new cars.

According to a press release from the Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Anthony Foxx (the Transportation secretary) says V2V communication systems have “the potential to help drivers avoid 70 to 80 percent of crashes that involve unimpaired drivers.” So, the US government is putting together a set of standards for such a system to meet.

What the Feds are proposing is an in-car radio communication system with a range around 300-metres; this system would “talk” to other cars in its radius, warning of imminent collisions due to unsafe driving. It would also theoretically allow a vehicle to communicate with traffic signals.

” Automotive technology has been about surviving crashes,” said DOT assistant secretary Greg Winnfree, “but in the future, it will be about preventing them.”

If this sounds like something from Buck Rogers or Star Wars, think again. The US government has actually been testing this sort of thing on a fleet of vehicles in Ann Arbour, Michigan, for a while now. They’re hoping to have a solid implantation plan in place by 2016, when Obama leaves office. Automakers have been working on this technology for years now, too; they’re even working on systems that recognize pedestrians’ cell phones, to avoid hitting jaywalkers.

Honda and BMW have also been playing with installing this technology on motorcycles; you can read more about their efforts here.

For now, at least, it seems the Feds aren’t trying to track your vehicle’s movements on a macro scale; the system is only intended to broadcast your vehicle’s speed and similar information to other vehicles around you, to prevent collisions.

“”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 bigwig David Friedman. “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.”

Sounds like it might be a tough sell, though, in a country that still resists helmet laws …

While all this technological speculation is very interesting, what does it mean for motorcyclists? If this technology comes through, we’ll be looking at a safety system that will likely add weight, while also broadcasting your speed and likely a bunch of other information.

Then, add in the fact we live in an age where many motorcycles are half-controlled by electronic engine management systems that could theoretically be governed wirelessly, and the body in charge of this V2V technology is the US federal government. Does that sound like a future you want to live in?

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