Talking cars could revolutionize auto safety

February 4, 2014 

People have always talked about their cars, sometimes talked to them and occasionally even referred to them by pet names.

Now cars may be getting ready to start talking themselves. Under a safety initiative announced by the Obama administration Monday, auto manufacturers may be required to produce cars that can communicate with each other, alert drivers to hazards and possibly take control. Transportation planners think “talking cars” could ultimately prevent tens of thousands of crashes every year.

The new technology, estimated to add only a few hundred dollars to a new car price, would allow the vehicle to sense other cars, communicate with infrastructure like stop signs and traffic lights and detect pedestrians and bicyclists who have specially equipped smart phones.

The change to “vehicle-to-vehicle” technology would be revolutionary for auto safety. Previous safety requirements have focused on preventing or reducing injury in a crash with seat beats, safety glass and air bags. This requirement could prevent the crashes themselves. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says “V2V” technology could eliminate four out of every five crashes not involving an impaired driver.

The technology’s arrival is years way, but Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the administration wants to propose a final rule before the Obama administration ends in January 2017. The rule will help spur auto manufacturers to meet the safety goal just as they’ve met early requirements for safety features and fuel efficiency.

The obstacles are easy to see. There will be questions about cars going haywire and concerns about privacy as a vehicle’s time of operation and locations are tracked. There’s also an issue of whether the electromagnetic spectrum used by car-to-car signals will interfere with other communication signals in our device-besotted world.

But all that can be worked out, and the sooner the better. This a change that will save thousands of lives.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service