Applications that warn drivers of impending collisions are already in pilot testing, but a number of challenges could hinder their deployment, says government report.
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Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies -- designed to warn drivers of impending collisions by sharing data with nearby vehicles -- have the potential to provide significant safety benefits if widely deployed. But several challenges could create bumps in the road for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the automobile industry, which are jointly developing V2V applications, a new government report concludes.
In 2011, 5.3 million automotive crashes in the U.S. caused more than 2.2 million injuries and approximately 32,000 fatalities, according to the report, issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Together with car makers, the Transportation Department is focused on the development of in-vehicle components, including hardware to enable communications among vehicles and features that might alert drivers to impending hazards.
DOT is also interested in developing a national communication security system that would allow data to be transmitted among vehicles. If broadly deployed, V2V technologies could warn drivers in up to 76% of potential multi-vehicle collisions involving a passenger car, according to DOT.
Another major component comprising this safety system includes the software applications that would analyze data and identify potential collisions. Examples of V2V safety applications include:
-- Emergency electronic brake lights (EEBL) warning. V2V communications would warn a driver of a vehicle ahead in traffic that is braking hard, well before a driver sees brake lights immediately in front of him or her.
-- Blind spot warning (BSW) that lets a driver know a vehicle that may not be visible is in their blind spot.
-- Lane change warning (LCW) that issues an advisory to a driver who may switch to a lane where a faster-moving vehicle is approaching.
-- Forward collision warning (FCW) that alerts a driver of a potential rear-end crash with a slower moving vehicle ahead. Wireless signals from the forward vehicle would be trigger a warning to the driver of the trailing vehicle if it is getting too close.
-- Do not pass warning (DNPW) that lets a driver know when it's not safe to pass a slower-moving vehicle because of oncoming traffic. V2V communications would continuously look for vehicles in the passing zone and would issue an advisory, which escalates to a warning if the driver ignores it.
-- Intersection movement assist (IMA) that warns a driver when it's not safe to enter an intersection because of the likelihood of a crash with an adjacent vehicle that is approaching.
-- Left turn assist (LTA) that cautions a driver when making a left turn, which may not be safe because of oncoming traffic. When traffic clears, the warning goes away.
Such V2V technologies are already being tested in the field, but a number of challenges could hinder their deployment. Based on responses from experts, DOT officials and car manufacturers interviewed by GAO, those challenges include finalizing the technical framework of a V2V communication security system; ensuring that the radio-frequency spectrum used by V2V communications will not adversely affect V2V technology performance; getting drivers to respond appropriately to warnings; addressing liability issues posed by V2V technologies; and dealing with public concerns about privacy.
Current V2V pilot testing will end in February 2014. However, DOT officials will not attempt deployment until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) makes a decision in late 2013 on how to proceed regarding these technologies, the GAO report said. Another issue is determining the operating costs of a V2V communication security system. It's unclear whether the money would come from taxpayers, automobile makers, DOT, or state and local governments.
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