Will the connected car become a major component of the Internet of Things? It's starting to appear so. A new research report from the US Department of Transportation's (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) assesses the readiness of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, which are designed to transmit safety information between autos and warn drivers of imminent crashes.
V2V research isn't new. DOT and NHTSA have been exploring the technology for more than a decade, and earlier this year announced plans to develop rules for V2V crash-avoidance systems.
The new report examines the current state of V2V research, as well as technical, legal, and policy issues relevant to a world in which cars on the road exchange potentially life-saving data.
"Using this report and other available information, decision-makers will determine how to proceed with additional activities involving vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) technologies," the report states.
[Vehicle safety takes on an entirely new meaning in the Internet of Things era. See Automakers Openly Challenged To Bake In Security.]
Two of many potential V2V safety applications look promising at this time: Left Turn Assist (LTA) and Intersection Movement Assist (IMA). The former warns drivers not to turn left in front of a vehicle heading in the opposite direction -- always good advice -- while the latter alerts them when it isn't safe to enter an intersection (e.g., when doing so could result in a smash-up with one or more vehicles).
NHTSA estimates that IMA and LTA could prevent anywhere from 25,000 to 592,000 crashes and save roughly 50 to 1,083 lives per year.
A V2V-enabled auto would use short-range radio to transmit data about its speed, heading, brake status, and other information to other V2V-ready vehicles. The NHTSA estimates that a V2V system would cost roughly $350 per vehicle in 2020, with the cost falling to between $209 and $227 by 2058, the report states.
Numerous details must be worked out before a working V2V system is in place. NHTSA also released an accompanying advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) report, which raises important technical, legal, and policy issues that must be resolved by automakers, policymakers, and other stakeholders. They include:
- Should mobile phones or other cellular devices be an option for V2V communication, or should V2V be a component of the vehicle?
- Does cellular technology have the low latency and security required for safe V2V communications?
- How might a V2V system manage message congestion?
NHTSA has conducted some testing of V2V safety apps, but a lot more is needed "to determine long-term driver behavior and the impact of a V2V mandate," the ANPRM states.
For instance, the agency has yet to conduct real-world testing to determine if driver use of V2V technology differs with "routine distractions," such as smartphones, radio usage, and talking to passengers.
An early V2V system may deliver limited value, particularly if few vehicles are equipped to use it.
"If NHTSA mandates V2V technology for new vehicles only, it will likely take about 15 to 20 years before the vast majority of all vehicles on the road have the technology installed," the ANPRM states.
Security and privacy issues will arise, too. A V2V system could create new "threat vectors" that allow someone to hack into a vehicle's electronic control unit and potentially "control a vehicle or manipulate its responses" in new and dangerous ways, the report adds.
"By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety," said NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman in a statement. "V2V technology is ready to move toward implementation, and this report highlights the work NHTSA and DOT are doing to bring this technology and its great safety benefits into the nation's light vehicle fleet."
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