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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced this week that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology for light vehicles. This technology would improve safety by allowing vehicles to "talk" to each other and ultimately avoid many crashes altogether by exchanging basic safety data, such as speed and position, ten times per second.

"Vehicle-to-vehicle technology represents the next generation of auto safety improvements, building on the life-saving achievements we've already seen with safety belts and air bags," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry."

DOT research indicates that safety applications using V2V technology can address a large majority of crashes involving two or more motor vehicles. With safety data such as speed and location flowing from nearby vehicles, vehicles can identify risks and provide drivers with warnings to avoid other vehicles in common crash types such as rear-end, lane change, and intersection crashes. These safety applications have been demonstrated with everyday drivers under both real-world and controlled test conditions.

The safety applications currently being developed provide warnings to drivers so that they can prevent imminent collisions, but do not automatically operate any vehicle systems, such as braking or steering.

NHTSA is also considering future actions on active safety technologies that rely on on-board sensors. Those technologies are eventually expected to blend with the V2V technology. NHTSA issued an Interim Statement of Policy in 2013 explaining its approach to these various streams of innovation. In addition to enhancing safety, these future applications and technologies could help drivers to conserve fuel and save time.

V2V technology does not involve exchanging or recording personal information or tracking vehicle movements. The information sent between vehicles does not identify those vehicles, but merely contains basic safety data. In fact, the system as contemplated contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure that vehicles can rely on messages sent from other vehicles and that a vehicle or group of vehicles would be identifiable through defined procedures only if there is a need to fix a safety problem.

In August 2012, DOT launched the Safety Pilot "model deployment" in Ann Arbor, Mich., where nearly 3,000 vehicles were deployed in the largest-ever road test of V2V technology. DOT testing is indicating interoperability of V2V technology among products from different vehicle manufacturers and suppliers and has demonstrated that they work in real-world environments.

These are remarkable strides in the right direction. V2V communications can provide the vehicle and driver with 360-degree situational awareness to address additional crash situations – including those, for example, in which a driver needs to decide if it is safe to pass on a two-lane road (potential head-on collision), make a left turn across the path of oncoming traffic, or in which a vehicle approaching at an intersection appears to be on a collision course. In those situations, V2V communications can detect threats hundreds of yards from other vehicles that cannot be seen, often in situations in which on-board sensors alone cannot detect the threat.

Here's to letting our cars do the talking!