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Car-to-car talk: Hey, look out for that collision!



By JOAN LOWY

WASHINGTON (AP) - Your car might see a deadly crash coming even if you don't, the government says, indicating it will require automakers to equip new vehicles with technology that lets cars warn each other if they're plunging toward peril.

The action, still some years off, has "game-changing potential" to cut collisions, deaths and injuries, federal transportation officials said at a news conference Monday.

A radio signal would continually transmit a vehicle's position, heading, speed and other information. Cars and light trucks would receive the same information back from other cars, and a vehicle's computer would alert its driver to an impending collision. Alerts could be a flashing message, an audible warning, or a driver's seat that rumbles. Some systems might even automatically brake to avoid an accident if manufacturers choose to include that option.

Your car would "see" when another car or truck equipped with the same technology was about to run a red light, even if that vehicle was hidden around a corner. Your car would also know when a car several vehicles ahead in a line of traffic had made a sudden stop and alert you even before you saw brake lights The technology works up to about 300 yards.

If communities choose to invest in the technology, roadways and traffic lights could start talking to cars, too, sending warnings of traffic congestion or road hazards ahead in time for drivers to take a detour.

The technology is separate from automated safety features using sensors and radar that are already being built into some high-end vehicles today and which are seen as the basis for future self-driving cars. But government and industry officials see the two technologies as compatible. If continuous conversations between cars make driving safer, then self-driving cars will become safer as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has been working with automakers on the technology for the past decade, estimates vehicle-to-vehicle communications could prevent up to 80 percent of accidents that don't involve drunken drivers or mechanical failure.

Crashes involving a driver with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher accounted for nearly a third of the 33,500 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, according to the safety agency.

The technology represents the start of a new era in automotive safety in which the focus is "to prevent crashes in the first place," as compared with previous efforts to ensure accidents are survivable, said David Friedman, the head of the agency.

No orders to automakers are imminent, officials said.

After an agency report, the public and carmakers will have 90 days to comment, then regulators will begin drafting a proposal, and that process could take months to years. But Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said it is his intention to issue the proposal before President Barack Obama leaves office.

"It will change driving as we know it over time," said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. "Automobile makers will rethink how they design and construct cars because they will no longer be constructing cars to survive a crash, but building them to avoid a crash."

Government officials declined to give an estimate for how much the technology would increase the price of a new car, but the transportation society estimates it would cost about $100 to $200 per vehicle.

Automakers are enthusiastic about vehicle-to-vehicle technology but feel there are important technical, security and privacy questions that need to be worked out first, said Gloria Bergquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

The technology "may well play a larger role in future road safety, but many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together," she said.

The technology the government is contemplating contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure the information exchanged between vehicles doesn't identify them but merely contains basic safety data, officials said.

The safety benefits can't be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology. It takes many years to turn over the nation's entire vehicle fleet, but the technology could start preventing accidents before that.

Safety benefits can be seen with as few at 7 percent to 10 percent of vehicles in a given area similarly equipped, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the transportation society, an umbrella organization for the research and development of new transportation technologies.

There may be another way to speed things up, according to a presentation last year by the communications technology company Qualcomm. About 45 percent of Americans use smartphones, and that share is growing. If smartphones, which already have GPS, came equipped with a radio chip they could be used to retrofit vehicles already on the road so they could talk to each other. That would help make it possible to achieve a 50 percent market penetration in less than five years, Qualcomm estimated.

Using cellphones could also extend the safety benefits of connected-car technology to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, Belcher said. A driver could be alerted to a possible collision with a pedestrian carrying a smartphone sending out information, even if it was too dark to see the person. More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed by vehicles and 76,000 injured in 2012.

But there are significant technical and standardization hurdles to using cellphones to support connected-car technology. Cellphone battery life, for example, a need for antennas, questions about radio frequencies and concern that cellphone GPS functions might not be as precise as those in a vehicle manufactured with special technology.

Join the discussion

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luckymrdave February 04 2014 at 8:03 AM

The government cannot promise privacy they have no clue what that word means!

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rhans43832 February 04 2014 at 8:27 AM

Looking at the picture, I can only deduce the British government must be on board with this CRAP also...

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
geburuh rhans43832 February 04 2014 at 9:06 AM

How about a reverse negative

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1 reply
rhans43832 geburuh February 04 2014 at 9:41 AM

Tanks...

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ursini55 February 04 2014 at 7:59 AM

Perhaps we could impress upon people that driving a real car is NOT a video game. Perhaps we could impress upon our young drivers that there is NO RESET BUTTON on the dashboard. Perhaps...

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Hi! Michael February 04 2014 at 7:52 AM

I think they should work on texting and hands free cell phone integration first. Perhaps make it so trying to text or make phone calls on your hand held phone won't work while you are driving. Why can't you speak to text like Dragon? I know that even talking to other people riding in your car while driving is a distraction but for those of us who can talk and drive at the same time talking to your dashboard is surely more safe than having a phone to your ear. It takes one hand from the wheel.

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1 reply
sadiemae1214 Hi! Michael February 04 2014 at 9:36 AM

It's called "blue tooth" and makes it possible to talk to your cell phone and/or call someone without touching anything!

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Beautiful February 04 2014 at 8:59 AM

Marty Mcfly arrived a few days ago. So where the hell is my flying car? Huh? Huh?
As a baby boomer I demand our flying cars and cities under the ocean they promised to us when we were kids. Everyone told us we are special, so dammit give us our damned stuff!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Mel February 04 2014 at 7:37 AM

Why is my personal right to tailgate a car ahead of me being taken away? I have road rage and I consider it a constitutional right for me to go 65 mph and do it while only 5 feet behind the car in front of me. I have a constitutional right to scare the crap out of other driver and if I so choose, to smash my car into anything I please. I find it difficult enough to smoke a cigarette, eat a sandwich, and text, all at the same time. I saw a commercial where a Mercedes stops before colliding with the car in front. I will never buy that car. I don't ever wear my seatbelts and I had the air bag removed. As usual the government is taking away my freedoms. Can't we bring back Nixon? This comment has been sent to you via the computer they have in Bellevue Psychiatric Ward in NYC.

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2 replies
secndmous Mel February 04 2014 at 7:50 AM

Driving is not a roight, it is a priviledge, remember that.

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1 reply
wittlief secndmous February 04 2014 at 8:53 AM

apparently an education is not a right either.....

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laliperta Mel February 04 2014 at 8:53 AM

Hay Mel, you are in the right place, stay there !!!

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rsteph7931 February 04 2014 at 9:13 AM

All those safety gadgets just make for less alert drivers. THE MOST IMPORTANT safety device in any vehicle is a properly adjusted nut holding on the steering wheel!

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searay0301 February 04 2014 at 9:15 AM

First I wouldn't ever want to have the car detect if a collision was going to happen. Because the next thing that these people would want to install something that would prevent the collision. My thoughts would be that the devise might prevent one collision, but in doing so create another problem. You will never prevent all deaths an accidents. But they can be reduced. If they wanted to. But look at all the job securities created from accidents. Hospitals, auto repair and sales ect. But seriously look at the driving skills of those on the road. Or should I say lack of. Inattentive driving. Reckless driving. Under the influence driving. And most of all poor attitudes. Human trait that you will never change. Would be nice but won't happen. I only drive about 60,000 miles a year on many types of roadways and weather conditions. When roads are wet, slow down. Keep a safe distance from vehicle in front of you. Pay attention to your surrounding situations by using all your mirrors. Keep your vehicle in good operating condition. Most of all have some respect for others

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tbplayer44 February 04 2014 at 9:32 AM

Take an already lazy Society, dependent upon their electronic devices, and add another to that list. Dont bother to teach people how to drive responsibly. Dont even teach them how to park. Just wait until these systems are hacked or fail and someone is killed... then who will take the blame? the driver who didnt feel the need to learn because the 'car knew how to do it'? The manufacturer? The car itself?

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bigdisneykid1 February 04 2014 at 12:02 PM

and if you drive an older car without this technology??

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