U.S. regulators will propose rules before President Barack Obama leaves office requiring vehicle- to-vehicle communications systems in new cars, which advocates said may aid safety more than seat belts and air bags.
“Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a news conference Monday. “The potential of this technology is enormous.”
Technology companies including Cisco Systems Inc. are among those vying to build the architecture for the connected car of the future. Google Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. are among companies looking at employing automated systems that could be precursors to self-driving cars.
The technology would let cars automatically exchange safety data such as speed and position 10 times per second and send warnings to drivers if an imminent collision is sensed, the transportation department said in a statement today. The systems being envisioned won’t be able to operate brakes or steering, though such technologies are being studied.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. auto-safety regulator, released in May its draft of a policy that encouraged development of technologies that could be components of autonomous vehicles.
It conducted a pilot project in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to test short-range communication technologies that it has said could prevent, or reduce in severity, as many as 80 percent of crashes involving non-impaired drivers. About a third of U.S. highway fatalities are alcohol-related.
“The vision of talking cars that avoid crashes is well on the way to becoming reality,” said Scott Belcher, president of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, a trade group that includes automakers and suppliers, in a statement.
David Strickland, former NHTSA administrator, said in May that the agency was looking at whether to regulate crash- imminent braking, a technology featured in a number of luxury models that applies brakes automatically if sensors indicate a crash is about to occur.
Vehicle-to-vehicle systems would go a step beyond such systems by allowing communications to take place between cars, or between a car and the road.
Today’s announcement begins a three-year period of intensive, more-focused research and consultations with the industry that will lead to a proposed regulation, NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman said.
The Transportation Department today said the technology it envisions won’t track vehicle movements or allow the exchange of personal information. It would allow cars to be identified only for the purposes of fixing safety flaws.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, raised concerns in May that the communications advances being discussed could make cars vulnerable to hacking.
–Editors: Bernard Kohn, Steve Geimann
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