NHTSA Proposal Would Require Cars to “Talk” to Each Other by 2020

In early 2016, two self-driving vehicles were involved in serious accidents because their sensors failed to notice the actions of other vehicles on the road.

With smarter technology, these accidents could have been avoided. Luckily, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently close to passing a law that would require all new cars to talk to each other by 2020.

What is the NHTSA’s proposal?

The NHTSA proposed the Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications rule over two years ago. Since then, the NHTSA has been involved in safety testing and accepting comments from industry leaders regarding the new technology. After a lot of work, the NHTSA expects this proposal to finally become Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 150.

If enacted, the law would require all car manufacturers to install short-range communication radios in all of their new vehicles by 2020. The slow rollout process would affect 50 percent of all new cars in the first year, 75 percent of cars in the third year, and 100 percent of cars in 2020.

Why is V2V safer than current technology?

Unlike current smart technology, line of sight, poor weather conditions, or lighting issues do not affect or limit V2V. So while the Tesla Model S could not distinguish between the sky and a truck in front of it, a car with V2V technology would always be able to tell the difference.

V2V uses Wi-Fi technology to send and receive up to 10 short messages between cars every second. The technology works over a 1,000 to 1,500-foot range and even allows cars to see though other cars or buildings. Essentially, all cars would share their information with each other. That means your car would have up-to-the-second information on every car around you, including their exact position, speed, heading, and even their braking status.

A self-driving car can use this information to make adjustments and avoid accidents. Of course, drivers of manually operated vehicles will still benefit from the additional V2V information because their car can give them life-saving warnings. For example, if the car in front of you slams on their brakes, but their tail lights are out, your car will give you the warning you need to avoid a collision.

When will FMVSS 150 officially become law?

Many members of the automotive industry are fully on board with the NHTSA’s proposed rule. For example, Honda issued an official statement announcing its full support of V2V technology and the belief that the technology could “significantly enhance road user safety.”

However, some opponents to V2V technology claim that 5G technology, which uses cellular phone systems, is superior to V2V. While this technology could prove to be more user-friendly, 5G is still in the early stages of production and would not be ready for an official rollout in 2020.

Another hitch in the future of FMVSS 150 is the upcoming change in the presidential administration this January. As the president-elect names new agency heads and reevaluates federal regulations, he could stop FMVSS 150 in its tracks.

For more information about NHTSA safety proposals and Columbus’ Smart City initiative, be sure to check out our blog.