By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department on Tuesday proposed requiring all new cars and trucks to be able to “talk” to one another using short-range wireless technology to potentially avoid tens of thousands of crashes annually.
Regulators, which first announced plans to pursue requiring the technology in early 2014, are proposing to give automakers at least four years to comply from the time it is finalized and would require automakers to ensure all vehicles “speak the same language through a standard technology.”
The administration of President-elect Donald Trump will decide whether to finalize the proposal, which does not apply to larger vehicles like buses and tractor trailers.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that talking vehicles could eliminate or reduce the severity of up to 80 percent of crashes where alcohol is not a factor, especially crashes at intersections or while changing lanes.
Last year, there were 6.3 million U.S. vehicle crashes. In October, NHTSA said U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.4 percent in the first six months of 2016. The jump follows a spike in 2015, when road deaths rose 7.2 percent to 35,092, the highest full-year increase since 1966.
Talking cars and trucks would use dedicated short range communications to transmit data up to 300 meters, such as location, direction and speed, to nearby vehicles. That data would be updated and broadcast up to 10 times per second to nearby vehicles, which can identify risks and provide warnings to drivers to avoid imminent crashes.
“From a safety perspective, this is a no brainer,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said vehicles would protect privacy by only exchanging safety information and would ensure hackers can’t intercept signals.
The rule would not require vehicles currently on U.S. roads to be retrofitted with the technology. Foxx said owners couldn’t turn off the technology but could turn off warnings.
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Volkswagen AG and other major automakers, noted the system is already being tested. The group said it would study the proposal. Automakers are pushing to ensure that a portion of the spectrum reserved for connected vehicles is not used by other companies for other wireless device use. The U.S. Federal Communication Commission has begun testing potential sharing options.
Separately, the Federal Highway Administration plans to issue guidance for vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, which will help planners allow vehicles to “talk” to roadway infrastructure such as traffic lights.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)