February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
announced that it will begin taking steps to enable
vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication for cars and light-duty
trucks. NHTSA says that by allowing V2V, vehicles could exchange
basic data, such as speed and position. The system would then warn a
driver of a possible collision, but would not automatically stop or
steer the vehicle. NHTSA plans to publish a report on V2V technology
in a few weeks detailing its technical feasibility, privacy and
security issues, and estimated cost and safety benefits. The
department claims that when fully implemented, V2V could prevent
roughly 5.1 million accidents a year and save 18,000 lives.
secretary Anthony Foxx wants to have new regulations ready by
January 2017, when President Barack Obama leaves office.
Itís a noble
goal. Technology that saves lives is always worth investigating, but
it costs money.
A 2004 NHTSA
report that looked at safety features on cars from 1967 through 2002
estimated that 4 percent of a 2002 model carís weight and $839 ó
or $1,086 today ó in cost were the result of federal safety
study was released, the government has insisted on further safety
systems not included in that cost, such as electronic stability
control and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Now comes V2V,
a system that will increase the cost of a new car that, on average,
cost almost $31,000 in 2013. Whatever added costs V2V regulations
will add to cars, it will be in addition to the extra $3,000 federal
fuel economy regulations are expected to add to the cost of a new
car or truck by the year 2025. And V2V adds weight, which makes
meeting that fuel economy requirement tougher.
true benefit of this technology will be realized only when a
majority of vehicles are equipped with it. Given the average age of
a car in the United States is 11.4 years, itís going to take some
time for V2V to be particularly effective.
state that V2V systems could talk to outside sources, such as a stop
light, which would tell your car to stop. But couldnít it also
open cars up to criminal behavior? Given the increasing number of
CPUs in a car or truck, thereís the rising threat of cars being
hacked, or their software corrupted as they speak with each other or
the question of whether the government can handle the additional
infrastructure demands. In an era when our roads and bridges are
crumbling, and our highways and tunnels are overtaxed, one must
wonder if any government agency could competently maintain the
systems that would talk to your car or truck. Is the cost of
creating and maintaining such systems worthwhile?
the liability issues when the electronics fail.
must ask if the regulation is even needed. The basic building blocks
of V2V are already offered. Many new cars have any number of sensors
and cameras to intervene if a crash is imminent or warn when a
vehicle strays from its lane. For most drivers, such electronic aid
is welcome, and they are buying such features as blind-spot warning
or lane-keeping assist.
features are not yet widespread, they are becoming more common, and
they accomplish most of what a V2V system would. Saving lives is
important, but if the same goal can be met with existing technology,
why add the cost?
But in a
country that has become preoccupied with safety, be it hand
sanitizer or the TSA, one suspects we will get V2V, whether we want
it or not.