Today, the Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a year-long safety pilot to investigate the feasibility of vehicles that can "talk" to each other and the local infrastructure using a Wi-Fi-like technology to prevent crashes. The DOT says these systems have the potential to help drivers avoid or minimize up to 80 percent of crashes involving unimpaired drivers.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Administrator, David Strickland, calls it "the next major safety breakthrough."
The project, being conducted by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will include nearly 3,000 cars, trucks, and buses equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication devices. These include manufacturer vehicles built with visual, auditory and some haptic signals (like a vibrating seat or steering wheel) to alert the driver to an imminent crash. Other vehicles in the test will be equipped with aftermarket systems.
"Our number-one challenge is to move things along on schedule and to get to a point where we have enough data to indicate whether there really is a substantial safety benefit," says Director of UMTRI Peter Sweatman. Data will be analyzed throughout the year, which will help NHTSA determine by 2013 whether to implement this technology in all vehicles or continue their research.
V2V and its potential benefits was the subject of our April-issue report "Vehicle-to-vehicle communication can prevent crashes." I had the opportunity to drive some of these vehicles at one of the DOT's eight driver clinics and was struck with how useful this technology could be in every-day driving situations, providing an additional level of safety to motorists.
We'll be monitoring the progress of the deployment and will share findings throughout the year.