The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is calling on automakers to move forward with developing new technologies that will allow cars to communicate with one another via wireless network. The NHTSA believes that this technology will help prevent deadly car accidents, particularly at intersections.
The NHTSA made its recent announcement after a review of several accidents involving school buses during 2012. In February of that year, a dump truck in New Jersey hit a school bus that had pulled out into an intersection to get a better view of the road before turning. The impact spun the bus around and caused it to collide with a telephone pole. Sadly, an 11 year old girl was killed in the accident. Approximately one month later, a semi tractor trailer hit a school bus at an intersection in Port Saint Lucie, Florida under similar circumstances. Four students were serious injured in the accident and one was killed.
The NHTSA has been working with researchers at the University of Michigan to develop systems that allow cars to communicate with each other. Vehicles using the current systems car share information wirelessly regarding speed, location and direction approximately 10 times each second. The systems have a range of about 1,000 feet and can even help cars communicate essential information to fixed points, such as traffic lights, along the road.
Since mid 2012, researchers have been testing the use of these systems on cars in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So far, the results of the initial trials have been promising. Nevertheless, officials at the NHTSA have said that they are still evaluating whether the use of these technologies is a good idea for everyone. They plan to make a final decision about whether to set nationwide standards for wireless automotive communication systems sometime by the end of the year.
For their part, not all automakers have been enthusiastic about the adoption of these technologies. One spokesman pointed out that these technologies are new and have been tested relatively little. In their view, any decision to set standards or release a rule requiring new cars to make use of these technologies would be premature.
In the meantime, researchers have continued their work in an effort to perfect their systems and convince regulators that the technology can prevent accidents. It is still too soon to say definitively whether this technology will be required in the future, but it very well may be essential to saving lives.