Feds are targeting high-tech car safety

Left-turn warnings on drawing board

Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

WASHINGTON — For years, trans­por­ta­tion wonks have been wait­ing for au­to­mated tech­nol­o­gies that will make cars safer and eas­ier to use, cut­ting down on traf­fic jams and low­er­ing the risk of deadly crashes. Now we’re one step closer to that fu­ture: The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion has un­veiled a plan to re­quire ve­hi­cle-to-ve­hi­cle com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gies in all new pas­sen­ger cars.

Adopt­ing these tech­nol­o­gies, the agency says, could pre­vent nearly 600,000 car crashes ev­ery year once the roll­out is com­plete.

Ve­hi­cle-to-ve­hi­cle com­mu­ni­ca­tions al­low cars to talk to one an­other, re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion like speed, po­si­tion and tra­jec­tory. This means that when you’re ap­proach­ing an in­ter­sec­tion and there’s on­com­ing traf­fic, ve­hi­cle-to-ve­hi­cle (V2V) tech­nol­o­gies could judge when it’s safe to turn left.

Most driv­ers prob­a­bly feel as though they don’t need this help. In the vast ma­jor­ity of cases, turn­ing left might seem to be a non-prob­lem. But con­sider the out­lier cases where warn­ings against turn­ing left too soon would be im­mensely help­ful. Un­safe left turns ac­count for more than 7 per­cent of all car col­li­sions.

That’s just one of a num­ber of sce­nar­ios that NHTSA is float­ing in a mas­sive, 300-page re­port out this week ac­com­pa­ny­ing its plan.

V2V tech­nol­o­gies prom­ise to help keep driv­ers in the loop. Test­ing is al­ready well un­der­way; in ad­di­tion to what en­gi­neers are call­ing left-turn as­sist, or LTA, high­way reg­u­la­tors are also con­fi­dent about a hand­ful of other warn­ing tech­nol­o­gies. For in­stance, reg­u­la­tors may re­quire that your car tell you when some­one else is brak­ing hard up ahead. You may not be able to see that per­son, but thanks to your car’s wire­less com­mu­ni­ca­tions with oth­ers, you’ll be able to avoid a multi-car fender bender. Other po­ten­tial fea­tures are de­signed to help keep cars from en­ter­ing oc­cu­pied lanes, or to pre­vent un­safe pass­ing.

Some of these tech­nol­o­gies have lim­ita­tions. In the case of the left-turn as­sist, even the most so­phis­ti­cated com­puter isn’t ca­pa­ble of pre­dict­ing when a driver wants to turn with­out the aid of a turn sig­nal. Studies show around a quar­ter of driv­ers don’t use turn sig­nals at all. But this prob­lem could be ad­dressed by an­other emerg­ing field, known as ve­hi­cle-to-in­fra­struc­ture, or V2I, com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Sen­sors em­bed­ded in left-turn lanes or in the traf­fic sig­nal could help co­or­di­nate things fur­ther.

For­mal V2V rules won’t be re­leased un­til 2016 at the ear­li­est, when the agency is ex­pected to pub­lish a set of con­crete pro­pos­als. But by talk­ing about what is and isn’t pos­si­ble a few years ahead of time, NHTSA is ef­fec­tively tell­ing re­search­ers and other reg­u­la­tors that they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them.

United States government - U.S. Department of Transportation


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here