Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Systems Should be Mandated in All New Cars
In the US in 2011, 32,367 people died in motor vehicle crashes and over 2 million people were injured. This means, on average, an American dies in a car crash every 12 minutes. Furthermore, car crashes are the leading cause of death among 5 to 34-year-olds. The cost of car crashes in the US are estimated to be over $165 million each year. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems provide an effective way to massively reduce vehicle collisions and make roads safer for all users. Additionally, the same technology can be used to alleviate congestion. Federal regulations should be put in place mandating that vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems come standard on all new vehicles.
How they work:
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems fall under the broad term of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). Devices are installed on cars that allow them to communicate via Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). These devices transfer information between cars on speed, acceleration, direction, and braking. Drivers are then warned through a system of alerts of impending crashes. For example, if a driver were approaching an intersection with a green light, the system would warn them if another car was about to run a red light at the intersection, allowing the driver to slow down and avoid the collision. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems would also warn drivers making lane changes if they were about to hit a car in their blind spot, or if nearby vehicles stop suddenly. The figure below visualizes the safety gains from vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems.
The more cars that employ vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, the more effective it will be. In a study in the scientific journal Computer Networks, Christian Weiss notes that if 100% of cars had vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems it would allow for much more advanced coordination including “cooperative maneuvering, intersection assistance and, in general, more complex driving situations.” While this is the eventual goal of vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, they will still drastically reduce car crashes without full deployment.
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicates that these systems could reduce 80% of crashes cause by non-impaired motorists. Currently, multiple federal agencies, automakers, and universities are working on researching, developing, and testing vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems. A joint initiative between the NHSTA and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) has already established a pilot program in six cities to test these systems.
In addition to the safety implications of these systems, vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems can be used to alleviate congestion. Each year the average American spends 38 extra hours in their vehicle because of congestion, and the total costs of the lost fuel and time are $121 billion. Without major changes, that figure is expected to grow to nearly $200 billion in 2020. If vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems are implemented nationwide, it will provide a treasure trove of real-time data on how our roads are being used. This data can then be used by individuals to avoid congestion by selecting alternative routes, changing their trip times, or switching to alternative modes of transportation. In addition to the monetary savings of reducing congestion, there are also a host of environmental benefits.
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems may prove to only be a stepping stone to self-driving cars. Nevertheless, it is an important step. These systems will familiarize users with many of the technological components that will be used in self-driving cars, likely reducing trepidation over handing the controls of vehicles to computers.
The more cars on the road with vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, the safer our roads will be. Therefore, it is imperative to implement this program at the national level. Further research is still ongoing to perfect vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems on a nationwide scale, but numerous systems are ready for installation today. Federal policymakers should mandate all new cars come installed with a vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems starting in 2016. This will allow for enough time to analyze the results of the pilot studies and for automakers to comply with the mandate. Adding a small premium to the price of new cars is a minuscule price to pay for saving thousands of lives a year. I believe that reducing the vast majority of motor vehicle collisions through vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems has the potential to be one of the greatest achievements of the 21st century.