The federal government wants people to drive cars that talk…to each other.
Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Monday announced plans to require future automobiles to be fitted with technology that allows them to monitor other vehicles on the road and autonomously take evasive action to avoid collisions.
Officials say up to 80 percent of today’s accidents could be prevented by the equipment and that a full report on its research will be released later this month. The Transportation Department expects to issue its proposed rule before the Obama administration leaves office.
A spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers says the industry is ready to work with government on the issue, but that security, privacy and affordability concerns must be addressed.
A transponder would continually transmit the vehicle’s position, heading, speed and other information 10 times per second in all directions using radio signals similar to Wi-Fi. Cars would receive the same information back from other vehicles. A vehicle’s computer would alert the driver to an impending collision. Some systems could automatically brake to avoid an accident.
“It will change driving as we know it over time,” said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. “Over time, we’ll see a reduction in crashes. Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash.”
The group says the technology would add about $100 to $200 to the cost of a new car.
The safety benefits can’t be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology, and it’s not clear what that level of market penetration is. It takes many years to turn over the nation’s entire vehicle fleet, but the technology could start preventing accidents long before that. Research indicates safety benefits can be seen with as few at 7 percent to 10 percent of vehicles in a given area similarly equipped, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the transportation society, an umbrella organization for the research and development of new transportation technologies.