New Cars May Have to Talk to Each Other by 2020

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is constantly striving to improve car safety in the United States. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has historically written the rules for vehicle safety in the U.S., such as crash test requirements and quality control issues for car manufacturers. Now, many expect a new NHTSA proposed safety rule requiring cars to talk to each other to become law soon.  

What is NHTSA’s proposed new rule?

After two years of testing and a comment period, the NHTSA is finally ready to move its proposed Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) rule forward to become an actual law. If approved, the V2V law will be Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 150.

If enacted, the NHTSA’s proposal would require all newly manufactured cars sold in the U.S. to be able to “speak” to each other by 2020 using V2V communications. V2V technology uses Wi-Fi to send and receive short-range communications 10 times every second.

These messages would contain information about nearby cars’ position, speed, traveling direction, braking status, and speed.

What would a V2V rule mean for drivers?

Essentially, the new V2V rule would mean safer cars and fewer accidents for U.S. drivers, especially as self-driving cars become more commonplace on the roads. To illustrate how V2V could save lives, consider the two accidents involving autonomous vehicles that happened in early 2016.

Last year, a Google self-driving vehicle crashed into a bus in California, and the driver of a fully-automated Tesla Model S was killed when the Tesla crashed into a truck. In both of these situations, the vehicles’ sensors failed to notice the other vehicles.

If these vehicles had been equipped with the V2V communication technology — which is not limited by line of sight, weather, or lighting, and can even see through other cars — it is likely that the Google vehicle would have noticed that the bus was not slowing down and the Tesla would have noticed that the truck had turned left across its path.

In both cases, the vehicle’s automated systems would have adjusted to the new information and corrected their courses, preventing the crash.

When can we expect FMVSS 150 to be official?

Several people and car companies fully support V2V technology. For example, Honda issued an official statement announcing its intent to equip their new vehicles with V2V communication technologies in the future.

However, some in the automotive industry prefer 5G technology over V2V and are adamantly pushing for a 5G federal law instead. 5G technology would more closely align with cell phone providers, but the technology is still in its early phases of development and would not be ready for rollout in 2020.    

In addition to the debate between V2V and 5G technologies, the upcoming presidential administration change in January 2017 could also pose problems for the implementation of FMVSS 150. Only time will tell if this proposal will become law.

For more information about this and other proposals from the NHTSA, be sure to check out Cordisco & Saile LLC’s blog.

If you have a legal issue after a car accident, call us at 215-642-2335 to schedule a free consultation.