V2V Communications: Lifesaving technology or a new vector for vehicle defects?

One of the potentially more exciting auto technological developments are the continued advances being made into vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technologies. Recognizing both the potential and challenges posed by this technology, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has requested public comment on new rules for V2V compatibility for cars, trucks, SUVs and other vehicles. V2V may prevent vehicular accidents and reduce the likelihood of catastrophic injuries. As currently formulated the V2V standards would require the installation of two dedicated short range communication (DSRC) devices – one for transmission and one for reception. NHTSA is concerned with comments on the low-level technical functioning and compatibility of V2V systems currently. The agency believes that specific safety applications will be developed later through a market-based approach. Fayetteville AR personal injury lawyer Ken Kieklak explains.

Why the call for comment when these systems have yet to be widely deployed?

The usefulness communicative technology, like V2V communications, is directly related to the number of devices and vehicles the technology can “talk” with. That is, a V2V protocol that is universal and permits all vehicles to share information is inherently more useful than a V2V protocol that is limited to only “talking” to other Ford vehicles. For an example in a different context, consider what makes a service like e-mail or the phone so powerful: you can call or write regardless of the hardware you use because that hardware was designed to respect a standard. These universal and ubiquitous services are more useful than limited ones. The NHTSA’s call for comment is an attempt to continue the development of V2V communications along a pathway that looks similar to e-mail or the telephone. That is where vehicles designed by Ford, GM, Subaru, Honda, and Nissan all speak the same language and can share information to improve reliability, safety, and convenience.

What are the potential benefits and challenges of V2V systems?

V2V systems have broad applications that can improve driver safety and convenience. Some of the potential uses for the technology can enhance features already seen in today’s social-driven traffic apps. Other potential uses will be entirely unique and could potentially lead to a new car safety revolution. The promise of V2V systems includes:

  • Crash avoidance and warning technologies – Early versions of crash warning and avoidance systems have already been deployed in luxury and high-end vehicles. Systems that can leverage information provided by all of the vehicles in the car’s immediate surroundings will undoubtedly function more effectively.
  • Fuel saving technology – V2V systems can help drivers control their vehicle more efficiently. They can encourage better acceleration & braking habits and help the driver anticipate traffic signals, traffic stoppages, and other changes to the flow of traffic to conserve fuel. The car also should be able to choose a route more intelligently and account for changes in elevation.
  • Traffic & road hazard avoidance – Systems that rely on user submitted data, such as Waze, are already providing a glimpse into the type of information that could be shared by V2V systems.
  • Improved driver communications – Drivers may be able to communicate with surrounding vehicles or receive information regarding points of interest in the immediate vicinity.
  • Completely autonomous vehicles – V2V may be one of a suite of technologies leveraged to create a car that can drive itself.

However, like with many new technologies there also challenges that must be overcome. To start, V2V systems must communicate reliably and must be able to identify data provided by a defective or malfunctioning sensor. Furthermore, as cars are more able to communicate, the risk that these systems can be exploited remotely increases. It is conceivable that a virus, worm or other type of malware could exploit a V2V network to propagate rapidly. Malware may make the system behave unreliably or otherwise operate in a fashion that was not intended. Other challenges that must be met include:

  • Public acceptance – Unfortunately there is no mandate requiring older vehicles to be retrofitted with a V2V system. This means that the utility of V2V systems may lag behind until the technology is widely deployed.
  • Technical feasibility — Concerns over the wireless spectrum to be allocated and reserved for this technology is a potential stumbling block. Potential concerns regarding the use of the 5.9Ghz band must be addressed.
  • Privacy – V2V data may contain a history of all of the places that you have traveled to complete with time, route, and other data and meta data. V2V systems must be secured to prevent data mining by third-parties.

While V2V technology has the potential to improve road safety, it must be implemented deliberately after intense consideration to both human and technological challenges. A failure to take a meticulous approach may result in a potentially defective system that increases the likelihood of a car accident on i-540 or increases the severity of its injuries.