Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication: The Next Stage Of Roadway Safety

The nation lost 33,561 people in motor-vehicle crashes during 2012. [1] In the wake of such staggering figures, the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) is currently focused on vehicle-to-vehicle communication (“V2V”) as the next smart technology they hope will reduce fatalities and provide more roadway safety in America.

V2V communication allows cars to talk to one another and exchange important information like speed, location, brake status, and vehicle trajectory to warn drivers about impending crashes. It uses on-board dedicated short-range radio communication devices to transmit and receive messages about basic safety information between vehicles. While crash avoidance technology already exists (i.e. electronic stability control, on-board sensors, cameras and radar applications),V2V communications represent an additional step in helping to provide advanced warnings to drivers before collisions occur.

On August 18, 2014, the NHTSA released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (“ANPRM”) and a supporting research report on V2V communication. The NHTSA has been conducting research on this technology for more than a decade. This recent ANPRM, and the accompanying technical report, presents the results of initial research efforts along with a very preliminary estimate of the costs / benefits for V2V based safety applications. The ultimate goal is to require V2V communication in all new model cars and trucks.

Two safety applications were highlighted in the NHTSA report – left turn assist (“LTA”) and intersection movement assist (“IMA”). LTA warns drivers not to turn left in front of another vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. IMA warns drivers if it is not safe to enter an intersection due to a high probability of colliding with one or more vehicles. Additional applications could also help drivers avoid imminent danger through forward collision, blind spot, do not pass and stop light /stop sign warnings. “By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety,” according to NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman. Adopting these technologies could prevent almost 600,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives per year according to the agency.[2]

The ANPRM will help the NHTSA gather input from the public and stakeholders as they work to deliver a set of concrete proposals in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by 2016. Members of the public have until October 20, 2014 to submit any comments or concerns to NHTSA.

One concern from the public will surely be cost. Based on preliminary information, it is estimated that V2V equipment and supporting communications functions (including a security management system) would cost approximately $341 to $350 per vehicle in 2020. [3] The total projected preliminary annual costs fluctuate greatly from year to year with an estimate of $0.3 to $2.1 billion in 2020 and $1.1 to $6.4 billion between 2022 and 2024. [4] This cost is not insignificant.

Another major concern of this smart technology is the threat to privacy and security of personal information. According to the NHTSA, the V2V, “as currently contemplated,” will not collect or store any data identifying individuals or individual vehicles, nor will it enable the government to do so. However, the NHTSA acknowledges that privacy and system security are current and relevant areas of discussion and they intend to further explore the concerns about the vulnerability of this system to malicious attack.

It is clear that V2V communication is a promising technology that can help save lives, prevent injuries, ease traffic congestion and even improve the environment. However, based on the massive 300 page report, it is clear there is a lot of work to be done and questions to be answered before V2V communications are road ready.

About the Author: David Williams has many years of experience in a variety of personal injury related matters. He is currently managing the Garrisonville / Stafford County Office of Allen & Allen.

[1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Fatality Analysis Report System (FARS) final 2012 data.

[2] U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: Readiness of V2V Technology for Application (Report No. DOT HS 812 014). Washington, D.C.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.