The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is beginning real-world trials of cars equipped with prototype vehicle-to-vehicle technology, deploying a communication network where cars can talk with one another to increase overall road safety.
Starting in August, 2012, the agency will begin gathering data from 3,000 cars equipped with wireless communication technology. Known as The Safety Pilot, the trials will run for one year in Ann Arbor, Mich., to provide data for setting V2V standards and determining what data streams are most helpful.
NHTSA administrator David Strickland says V2V could be a “game changer” for safety, and it’s easy to see why.
While existing active safety systems can only respond to immediate threats, connected cars can prevent otherwise unforeseen accidents through instant communication. In other words, a car equipped with active braking can prevent an imminent rear-end collision in traffic, but only a V2V equipped car can sense the out-of-control driver about to speed around a blind curve in the wrong lane.
Here’s how it works: Using existing, universally accessible technology such as GPS and on-board diagnostic data, cars broadcast what’s called a “Here I Am” message at 5.9 GHz. All V2V equipped vehicles will be able to communicate on this band, sharing data such as speed and location. On-board computers sense the presence of other nearby vehicles, calculate the risks they may pose and even taking action — such as hitting the brakes or warning the driver of an impending collision.
It’s much more than just fancy version of existing active safety technology. While current lane-keep assist and crash avoidance systems rely on each individual car sensing immediate threats, cars equipped with V2V have a more detailed situational awareness of all other cars nearby. NHTSA says widespread deployment could eliminate the causes of up to 76 percent of accidents.
In order for the program to work, however, all cars must be speaking the same language. That’s why NHTSA wants to use existing technology that can be installed in all vehicles, from 18-wheelers to motorcycles. According to the agency, setting universal V2V standards can also bring the technology into the marketplace more quickly than waiting for automakers to develop their own solutions to active safety.
In the short term, the agency will study data gleaned from the tests in Ann Arbor, examining how drivers participating in the trial program respond when their car warns them of an impending collision.
“This pilot deployment of vehicles that ‘see’ and ‘talk’ with one another with the help of wireless communication will allow us to learn how drivers use electronic alerts to avoid crashes in a real-world environment,” said Peter Appel, administrator of NHTSA’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration
The first phase of the trials will determine what hardware is most cost-effective and what percentage of vehicles will have to be equipped with V2V technology for it to be effective. NHTSA will also examine the business case for deployment and ensure that communication protocols are universal regardless of vehicle manufacturer or type.
Photo: Adan Garcia/Flickr