Cars Get Their Own Social Network … and It Could Save Your Life

The NHTSA is making cars talk to each other, and the conversation could dramatically improve driving safety for all.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication

Half a mile ahead of you, around a long, looping curve, a motorcyclist swerves to avoid a sofa that’s just fallen off a truck, sparking a 5-car (and one-moto) pileup you’re now approaching at 60 miles an hour.

You’ll be at the scene in a mere 30 seconds … and the curve hides it completely from your view.

But your car knows it’s there (or will soon).

The social network for cars: NHTSA is testing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication

August marked the beginning of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) trial run of car-to-car communication in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Called “The Safety Pilot,” the program put 3,000 WiFi-equipped cars in the hands of everyday drivers to start gathering data to determine:

  • Future vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication standards
  • What sorts of data are most useful
  • How many cars will need the technology to positively impact crash statistics
  • How drivers behind the wheel will respond to their cars’ sudden development of situational awareness

V2V communication represents a significant leap forward in car safety technologies. While current active safety systems, like lane correction and active braking, can help drivers steer clear of some accidents, V2V makes the car itself aware of situations — long before the driver encounters them. Once the car senses an oncoming situation, it can then alert the driver and/or take action itself through its onboard safety systems.

How V2V communication works

V2V combines common current technologies like GPS, on-board diagnostics (OBD) systems, and WiFi to let your vehicle communicate with the vehicle down the road. Every car equipped with the system broadcasts a “Here I Am” message that contains such information as current location and speed. While you drive, your car gathers all these messages, calculates the risks coming ‘round the bend, and lets you know about anything pertinent — or just goes ahead and acts on its own initiative to keep you safe.

What could this mean for drivers and pedestrians? Well, according to the NHTSA, widespread adoption of the technology could eliminate the causes of 76 percent of all accidents. The result: a much safer world for us all.

The value of using existing technologies

One of the smartest elements of this test is the NHTSA’s use of existing, widely deployed technologies. You see, for V2V communication to work, all cars will need to speak the same language. And the best way to ensure that happens is to make sure that the technologies supporting the car-to-car dialogue are easily deployable in just about any vehicle out there.

Onboard diagnostics, GPS, and WiFi connectivity have become practically universal in modern cars, vans, and trucks. Which makes widespread market adoption of V2V technology that much easier. Rather than waiting for individual car manufacturers to implement solutions that might not be cross-make compatible, the NHTSA is taking the lead to keep the inter-automobile conversation on track.

What do you think?

So, does V2V sound as promising to you as it does to the NHTSA? Does the thought of your car talking to other vehicles around it, telling them where it is and how fast it’s going, reassure or unsettle you? And do you wonder about the possibility of hackers exploiting this technology?

Tell us what you think by commenting here or on our Facebook page.

Related links

Google’s driverless cars use similar technologies — but make all the decision-making themselves.

Discover a few more of our favorite recent car safety technologies.

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