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A woman approaches the crest of a hill in her car when lights flash and an audible warning goes off.  This allows her to stop before she collides with a broken down vehicle hidden out of sight just on the other side of the hill.  It’s not science fiction.  This is just one of countless scenarios illustrating how a new vehicle communication technology can cut down on thousands of car accidents and deaths each year. 

Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications for Safety is an emerging auto safety technology that uses wireless data exchange between vehicles near each other on the road to communicate and warn of potential collisions.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) explains that these small transmitters will potentially provide the following safety warnings:

  • Emergency brake light warning
  • Forward collision warning
  • Blind spot and lane change warning
  • Do not pass warning
  • Control loss warning
  • Intersection movement assist
  • Vehicle stabilization activation on roadways alerting transit operators to weather-related information    

According to the DOT, “The vision for the U.S. DOT’s V2V Communications for Safety research program is that each vehicle on the roadway will eventually be able to communicate with other vehicles, and that this rich set of data and communications will support a new generation of active safety applications and systems.” 

In addition to vehicle-to-vehicle communication devices, vehicle-to-roadside infrastructure (V2I) systems will detect obstacles like traffic lights and school zones, while vehicle-to-mobile device (V2D) communication systems are also in development.  A Consumer Reports Magazine article explains that this technology may “be designed to include pedestrians, motorcycles, and bicyclists.”  Taken together, these technologies are known as V2X.

Older vehicles can also be easily retrofitted with the safety system, increasing the effectiveness of this device.  For example, Consumer Reports explains that “Gm is developing two types of mobile safety applications—a stand-alone portable transponder about the size of a portable GPS navigator and an application that uses a smart phone to receive the DSRC signal and links it to a car’s audio and video displays.” 

Although some doubt the value of a technology that cannot possibly be installed in all vehicles on the road, NHTSA experts still feel there are safety benefits to having it in only some vehicles.   

Some cars today already offer similar warnings as V2X technology, including forward collision, blind-spot, and lane-change alerts.  Unlike the wireless V2X communication devices, though, these radar and camera-based warning systems have range limitations and are costly.  Furthermore, they cannot warn of potential crash risks hidden out of sight of the camera like V2X technology can.      

The U.S. DOT explains that V2X technology is the primary focus of their 2010-2014 Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Program, which involves the development of this wireless communication technology to keep motorists and pedestrians safe.

In fact, from last August to January, Consumer Reports explains that NHTSA conducted six different driver clinics to test “driver acceptance of this technology.”  Though these results have not yet been made public, the consumer safety resource explains that during the trials V2X technology was well-received.  

A recent Connected Vehicle update from the DOT explains that in addition to preventing accidents and saving lives, this technology plays an environmentally beneficial role by reducing costly traffic congestion brought on by accidents.  According to the report, traffic congestion represents a “$87.2 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy, with 4.2 billion hours and 2.8 billion gallons of fuel spent sitting in traffic.”

Most importantly, though, the report notes the proactive shift in efforts to improve vehicle safety which this technology represents.  “The past 50 years have been about surviving vehicle crashes; the next 50 will be about preventing them,” the DOT report explains.