U.S. Government Puts Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications on Fast Track
Ever since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877, people have obsessed over making things talk. Musicians made vinyl speak. Disney bestowed the gift of language upon animals, plants and toys. Apple gave the world Siri, a soothing voice assistant. Now, it’s cars’ turn.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications: The Revolution of Driving:
Vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V) will be to cars what smartphones were to landline phones. V2V communication is not a single technology. It is a platform, a vision, one that would install wireless communication technology into vehicles so that they may speak to one another. In essence, every car becomes a “smart car“, like a “smartphone or a “smart” plug. These connected cars would broadcast and receive data through onboard Wi-Fi networks and even stream from or upload data into the cloud, allowing vehicles to not only communicate with their next-lane neighbors, but with any car, anywhere, any time.
How Cars Can Talk to Each Other:
The Department of Transportation began mining the subject of V2V communication in the early 1990s. Laboratories experimented with sensors designed to deploy crash-avoidance features – aka, brakes and airbags – before the driver became aware of the oncoming collision. Who hasn’t almost rear-ended a pedestrian in a parking lot, for instance? As computing and sensing technology exploded in the Dot-Com era, so did the vision for V2V communication. Before long, prototype vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, were transmitting their size, position, speed, heading, steering angle, wiper status, yaw rate and longitudinal acceleration. For example, Ford F-150 towing a trailer could talk to a tailgating Chevrolet Corvette – that’s right, a Ford would talk to a Chevy – and inform the sports car that it planned to brake in 2.27 seconds, so the Corvette should ease up on the gas and back off, if you please.
German and American Auto Manufacturers Boost State of the Art:
Despite the lofty goals, car-to-car communication remains in its infancy. A few manufacturers, such as Cadillac, have committed to releasing basic V2V technologies in a handful of 2017 and 2018 models,but without other cars to talk to, the benefits of the technology will be limited. Other companies are playing catch up, however. In September 2016, the three superstar German auto manufacturers – BMW, Audi and Mercedes – announced the launch of a V2V research and development project. Later, in December 2016, BMW took another giant leap forward for mankind. It announced a partnership with IBM’s Watson, a Jeopardy-winning super-computer artificial intelligence, in hopes that Watson’s astonishing computing and research capability could accelerate the development of V2V technology. After all, the supercomputer can process 500 gigabytes a second, and that’s like reading a million books every second.
“Smart” Cars Save Lives, Says NHTSA:
With so many human and artificial brains working on car-to-car communications, the future is hopeful. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hopes that the technology will prevent half a million accidents and save thousands of lives every year, reducing or eliminating deadly blind-spot, drunk-driving, parking lot and red-light collisions. It could be the biggest innovation since the seat belt, some say.
But At What Cost?
To some, it sounds too good to be true. Anything can be hacked, they say – and with good reason. Already, so much of what was once private information is now in the public domain. What if someone doesn’t want their geographic location broadcast through a WiFi signal? What if someone turns off their V2V receiver and crashes into someone else? Are they more liable than the other drive? When does individual privacy become more important than communal security? These are mind-bending questions, even for seasoned insurance agents and attorneys. If someone is apply for car title loans, does the technology add to its value? And, of course, companies salivate over Big Data. Will V2V trends be anonymized, analyzed and sold to the highest bidder for marketing research?
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication Wins Stamp of Approval from the Federal Government:
These are all important questions – and not irrelevant ones. Time is short. On Tuesday, December 13, 2016, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a notice of proposed rulemaking for the automobile industry. If all the rules see daylight, then all new vehicles by 2021 may be required to be manufactured with minimum rudimentary V2V technology. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made it simple. “Our goal is to save lives,” he said.
Down in the Details: Will V2V Be Here Soon?
But the future remains foggy. While dreamers write blog posts about saving lives and world peace, engineers are hard at work doing the dirty work. For instance, most V2V communications are based on the 5.9-gigahertz wave spectrum,a wavelength now sitting untapped. But other industries want a piece of the pie, as it were. But will sharing the spectrum with private companies decrease the security and speed of the signal in this safety-critical application
But leave it to the engineers and attorneys to crank through the details. There’s plenty of work left for the dreamers. Could, perhaps, vehicles gain even more than safety? A sense of decency, perhaps? Would a stereo system automatically lower the maximum volume if it senses another car parked within a 5-foot-radius at a stoplight? One can only hope. And if the V2V technology failed, there’s always the old-fashioned glare.
Featured image by flickr