We’re quickly approaching the age of autonomous vehicles. It’s something we’ve all thought about – riding in a driverless car while we read or watch YouTube videos – but we’re closer than you might think. In fact, at a RoboBusiness conference in October, Chris Urmson, who leads Google’s self-driving car program, said that their cars are “driving more smoothly and more safely than our trained professional drivers.”
A technological shift of this magnitude will require regulatory baby steps, and today the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a first step. They’ve begun working to enable (then enforce) vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology, in hopes of reducing accidents. V2V technology will allows vehicles to “talk” to each other by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.
“Decades from now, it’s likely we’ll look back at this time period as one in which the historical arc of transportation safety considerably changed for the better, similar to the introduction of standards for seat belts, airbags, and electronic stability control technology,” said David Friedman, Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
According to the DOT, V2V technology will not be used to identify or track individual vehicles and personal information won’t be recorded. They claim that, in theory, the system will have several layers of security and privacy protection. Of course, privacy advocates will need more than a government promise, but that’s the plan.
To prove that V2V technology works in the real world, and to demonstrate interoperability between different makes and models, the DOT performed a “model deployment” in Ann Arbor, MI. Beginning in August 2012, they deployed nearly 3,000 vehicles with V2V technology and reported that it has “game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries and deaths on our nation’s roads.”