The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began a year-long project in early September testing “connected vehicle” technology which, if successful, will allow cars, trucks and buses the ability to “talk” to each other as well as to infrastructure objects while on the road.
The pilot project is being conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) and involves nearly 3,000 vehicles. It is the first-of-its-kind road test of the crash avoidance technology using actual drivers and vehicles. The test cars, commercial trucks and buses, mostly supplied by volunteer participants, are fitted with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) devices for gathering data. According to a DOT Fact Sheet, the V2V technology is similar to WI-FI, but not likely to be susceptible to interference.
UMTRI has equipped more than 73 lane miles of roadway with the new technology. Test vehicles have been retrofitted with a safety device connected to the vehicle’s data bus, providing highly accurate information from the in-vehicle sensors. A driver-interface
broadcasts and receives safety messages which can then process the content of received messages and provide warnings to the driver during specific hazardous traffic scenarios. These include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes into a vehicle’s blind spot or a rear-end collision with a vehicle stopped ahead. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the V2V technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 4 out of 5 unimpaired vehicle crashes.
An independent study of the technology by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), an affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), seems to show that current crash avoidance technology is working. But the debate on the new systems is far from
over. Privacy concerns have been raised because storing of driving data is necessary for the systems to be effective. There are also concerns that, as the technology advances, it could cause the ultimate distractions as drivers become more and more dependent on “driverless” cars or other innovations in which the driver’s attention becomes secondary to the trip. Lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, parking assistance and backup cameras are all beginning to make their way into mainstream vehicles. But other technologies are on the table, like fatigue warning, curve speed warning and cross-traffic alerts in which drivers might rely more on their vehicles than on their instincts. IIHS spokesman Russ Rader put it this way, “There is a risk that drivers could let themselves become more distracted if they are confident that the car will bail them out. That’s something researchers are going to watch.”