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When cars speak the same language

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new rule this month regarding communication between motor vehicles. Vehicle-to-vehicle technology allows for the sharing of important information such as speed, direction and location of nearby cars and trucks. When combined with things like driver warnings and auto-braking, this technology can help prevent accidents that even attentive drivers could suffer. The NHTSA is proposing the rule in the hopes that setting up a standard format allows competing vehicle makers to create compatible vehicle-to-vehicle technology.

Critical mass

One of the challenges of new technology is that it sometimes depends on external factors for its success. If the best technology only prevents accidents between vehicles made by the same manufacturer, it is unlikely to be a success. A Ford truck must be able to "speak" to a Honda sedan to realize the full benefit of vehicle-to-vehicle communication. The NHTSA believes that its rule will help the technology reach a critical mass, where a large majority of passenger vehicles will be able to communicate about potentially dangerous situations. Without the rule, the technology might never gain popularity among car consumers. 

The response from car makers

It is difficult to predict how car companies will respond to the proposed rule. It will be open for public comment for 90 days after it is published. Despite having no formal power to overrule the NHTSA, auto makers have proven influential when it comes to technology requirements. Every company has something to gain from standardization. That said, if the requirements are seen as burdensome or as a hindrance to companies seeking to capitalize on the latest fad, they will likely seek to change the rule. The end result will hopefully be a rule that helps prevent serious car accidents and saves lives.

Source: Fleet Owner, "Proposed rule would mandate, standardize 'V2V' vehicle-speak," by Aaron Marsh, 4 January 2017 

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