April 4 - Vehicles that can communicate with each other and alert their drivers to traffic hazards may soon be seen on America's roads and highways. U.S. regulators are crafting a rule requiring all new vehicles to be able to ''talk'' to one another as they travel, using technology they say will significantly reduce road accidents. Pavithra George reports.
Coming soon to America's roadways - technology designed to prevent accidents like this. It's a system that will let cars and trucks communicate with each other - and alert their drivers to potential traffic hazards - like a speeding vehicle or an imminent collision. The U.S. Department of Transportation has unveiled plans that will require automakers to equip new cars with vehicle-to vehicle technology or v2v within three years. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GREG WINFREE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORATION, SAYING: "I would probably go back to my days as a kid and say its a lot like walkie-talkies. Its vehicles that will have radios that have the ability to communicate with other vehicles that have radio so both can send messages, both can receive messages, and thats how the technology works." Using a short range radio network V2V will let cars communicate with each other from up to 300 yards away - transmitting their position and speed, 10 times per second. If a driver unexpectedly slams on the breaks or is speeding, other cars within range will be notified instantly, and send an alert to their driver in the form of an audible signal, a vibration under the seat or possibly a light on the dashboard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects this new communication system to reduce the number of car crashes where alcohol is not a factor, by as much as 80 percent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SCOTT BELCHER, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA, SAYING: "This is really a game changer, it's bigger than seat belts, its better than electronic stability control, its bigger than airbags." Scott Belcher, CEO of advocacy group, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, calls the new technology revolutionary but warns of a potential spectrum crunch - too many wifi devices and services sharing the same wireless spectrum set aside for v2v. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SCOTT BELCHER, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA, SAYING: We would love to share this spectrum with other users but we need to make sure if we do that, we don't put the safety applications at risk. That would be one of the real risks to this program. If somehow we are sharing this spectrum and there's interference and so a car that could have, we could have prevented the crash, we are not able to prevent the crash because someone else is using the spectrum, thats a real risk" And then there are concerns about the privacy and security of individual drivers, who may fear their driving habits are being tracked. Belcher says the automobile industry will have to take those issues very seriously. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SCOTT BELCHER, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SOCIETY OF AMERICA, SAYING: "The signals will be purely autonomous, won't know what signal it is, we just know there will be a signal and so we won't track that information, so we won't be able to find out who's responsible or who's in the vehicle. In terms of security - that's a very signifcant issue......Automobile manufacturers will need to ensure that there is an adequate security system in place so that they can make sure that the vechiles that are communicating with each other are in fact secure, they are approved and they are vehicles that - we know who they are and we know they are part of that system." The cost of this project, to date - almost a billion dollars - with the private sector contributing the lion's share. Officials say they want new regulations mandating the technology in place before President Barack Obama leaves office in early 2017 - a first step towards a fully connected transportation system.