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New technology may help prevent car accidents

This week safety officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the first stages of an effort to bring vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems to new cars and trucks. These systems allow cars and trucks to communicate over radio frequencies, transmitting information about speed, traffic, and distance from other cars to provide alerts to drivers or trigger automatic breaks or steering maneuvers. This type of device is one element that experts say will be incorporated in self-driving cars in the future, but can be implemented earlier and more cheaply than a fully automated driving system. Early models will only be capable of providing alerts, but analysts say that they anticipate the devices will also intervene to prevent accidents in the future. Some cars already employ some of this technology in the form of blind spot alerts or automatic breaking systems.

Analysts predict that using the vehicle-to-vehicle technology in new model cars will be extremely cost effective, since it would only raise the price of a car about $100 but across the board could save hundreds of billions of dollars in prevented accidents.

If it seems insensitive to consider this safety measure in terms of dollars and sense, remember that the dollars spent represent property damage, injuries, and deaths. Spending less money on car accidents necessarily requires that we prevent those injuries and fatalities from happening in the first place, which is what regulators hope will be the impact of vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

At the same time, drivers must always understand that it is their responsibility to do their best to avoid accidents and take care not to speed, violate traffic laws, or drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Why NHTSA's car-to-car communications plan is game-changer for safety,” Jerry Hirsch, Feb. 5, 2014.

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