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Tech allowing cars to "talk" to each other could be coming soon

The technology allowing cars to “talk” to each other on the road — known as vehicle-to-vehicle or V2V communication technology — may soon become a standard safety feature in all light vehicles, according to new rules proposed Tuesday by the Department of Transportation. 

The technology could prevent hundreds of thousands of crashes every year, transportation officials said. The department has been taking steps to accelerate vehicle-to-vehicle technology for more than a decade.

Vehicle-to-vehicle tech aims to prevent accidents

The system works thanks to short-range communications technology, which automatically sends data like location, direction and speed between vehicles within certain distances of each other. That data would be updated as frequently as 10 times per second, allowing cars to process potential risks and warn their drivers accordingly in almost real time. 

Vehicle-to-vehicle technology would be particularly useful in reducing risk in situations where drivers are operating with limited sight and information — for instance, deciding whether to pass another car on a two-lane road, or whether to make a left turn through incoming traffic. It could also alert drivers if a car several cars ahead brakes suddenly. The technology, which works similarly to Wi-Fi, processes data from vehicles within a radius of hundreds of yards. 

“We are carrying the ball as far as we can to realize the potential of transportation technology to save lives,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

Now that the new rules have been rolled out, they are open to public feedback for 90 days. Under the proposed rules, automakers will need to work together and with the government to develop standardized messaging so that vehicle-to-vehicle devices across different cars can speak the same language. 

Once the rules are finalized, vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems would be required in 50 percent of new light-duty vehicles within two years and 100 percent within four years. If the rule goes into effect in 2019, the phase-in period for cars would begin in 2021, and all vehicles would be required to comply in 2023, the department said.

After 20 years, the department estimates it could prevent between about 349,900 and 487,500 crashes, and save anywhere from 789 to 1,089 lives.

Despite its promise of improved safety, the technology does prompt some concerns. Jamie Kitman of Automobile Magazine warned the spread of this technology could raise privacy issues in an interview with CBS News in January. 

“You are going to be able to be tracked like you’ve never been tracked before. That has good uses like charting traffic flows,” Kitman said. “And then there is the issue that most of the data will be collected by private corporations and they will seek to use that for their benefit.”

The DOT said Tuesday vehicle-to-vehicle communications would be required to have extensive privacy and security controls. 

Bringing the technology to all vehicles could eliminate or at least reduce the seriousness of 80 percent of non-impaired car crashes, the agency said.

Looking forward, the department is setting its sights on developing the technology further so it can “talk” to traffic lights, stop signs, and work zones “to improve mobility, reduce congestion and improve safety” on the roads.

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