How many Tuscaloosa car accidents could be prevented if every vehicle on the road was equipped with technology that allowed it to “talk” to other vehicles to determine when a crash is imminent – and then take measures to avoid it?
While it sounds somewhat futuristic, officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say they are “on the verge” of a breakthrough in such technology. The agency has just wrapped a year-long trial of some 3,000 cars, buses and trucks that were connected by Wi-Fi signals intended to curb the number of wrecks and help improve the flow of traffic.
It is believed that this kind of technology, had it been in place last year in New Jersey, could have prevented the death of a young girl riding on a school bus that was struck by a dump truck and flung into a utility pole. A total of 17 other children were seriously injured – including the girl’s two sisters.
The driver of the bus, who was reportedly exhausted and on a number of medications, had pulled in front of the truck, claiming he never saw it. Had the bus and the truck been outfitted with the Wi-Fi technology, the vehicles would have received a warning regarding the pending collision.
It was this young girl’s death that prompted officials with the NHTSA to kick their efforts into high gear and get the study underway.
These so-called “connected vehicles” reportedly hold a great deal of promise, officials say, and there is buzz that the NHTSA could soon require that the feature be installed in all new model vehicles. That could mean the technology would take years to be truly effective, but officials believe once it reaches critical mass, it could serve to slash the severity of vehicle crashes caused by unimpaired drivers by as much as 80 percent.
It would work like this:
Vehicles would be outfitted with custom-designed alarms, such as warning lights, vibrations or sirens, either in the steering wheel or the seat, to warn drivers they are perilously close to a wreck. Detected dangers might include a car speeding toward an intersection through which the driver is preparing to cross. It might also be a car suddenly breaking two vehicles ahead of the driver. Another example would be a vehicle that is fast-approaching in the driver’s blind spot.
Auto manufacturers, however, have voiced some skepticism. Beyond simply having the technology, they wonder about how such devices could impact standard performance requirements and how consumers will react to the technology.
Another concern manufacturers have is that legal liability for crashes might be shifted from the driver of the vehicle back onto carmakers. For example, if the technology somehow fails and a crash occurs, is the driver still legally liable or is the manufacturer of the vehicle?
Carmakers say this “must be addressed” before they can be on board.
NHTSA officials concede it is a challenge to figure out what information a driver should have at any given time. While knowledge of an impending crash is important, it’s equally critical not to overload the driver with too much information. At that point, it could be a distraction that might actually cause a crash.
Regarding the recent study of the technology, which involved vehicles provided by eight different manufacturers, officials have said they will likely delay release of the findings for at least six months.
Officials near breakthrough on ‘connected’ vehicles, Aug. 31, 2013, By Paul Nussbaum, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tuscaloosa Teens Facing Deadliest Days on Our Roadways, July 28, 2013, Tuscaloosa Car Accident Lawyer Blog