Auto makers and industry safety groups alike are actively calling on implementation of autonomous safety devices in vehicles
How many of us remember our parents or our driver’s-ED teacher reminding us to “check our blind spots?” While there is simply no replacement for visually confirming that no vehicle exists in your blind spot, several new cars and light trucks are being equipped with blind spot cameras or sensors. These automatically detect if another vehicle has entered your car’s blind spot and provides an auditory or visual confirmation that the space in the next lane isn’t clear. This is an example of the kind of technology that has entered our common lexicon. But industry groups and automobile companies are now working on the future of V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communications systems. These devices are incredibly complex, but their mission is simple – to tell other vehicles in the area, “here I am!”
V2V systems are under development as we speak. The USDOT (US Dept. of Transportation) is currently conducting research under its RITA program (Research and Innovative Technology Administration) to address the most common types of vehicle crashes. These include the rear end collision, blind spot and lane change impacts, accidents involving vehicles that inappropriately enter an intersection, those who are attempting to pass another vehicle, or those who are at risk of losing control in general. While the goal isn’t to reduce crashes to zero, the USDOT is seeking to minimize the devastating effects of car crashes that are due to unaware drivers or bad judgment calls.
There were 5.3 million vehicle crashes in 2011 alone – representing 2.2 million injuries and 32,000 fatalities on US roads. The DOT is seeking to reduce this number to help lower vehicle-accident related deaths and injuries, but also to lessen the economic impact of all of these crashes. The DOT estimates that between lost work, property damage, and medical expenses, more than $230 billion was lost in 2011 alone. While the implementation of V2V systems in cars, trucks, and heavy-duty vehicles will certainly represent a major expense, the savings will most likely offset the considerable upfront costs. Truckers must contend with distracted drivers and unsafe driving practices just like anyone else. The difference lies in the thin margin of error that many truckers face when they are placed into a dangerous driving situation. V2V systems may enable drivers of smaller cars to see the danger in their driving habits before they cause a crash involving a heavy duty vehicle.