Transportation: Vehicle-to-vehicle technology

Cathy Janek, Naperville Sun Transportation columnist.
Cathy Janek, Naperville Sun Transportation columnist.

Vehicle-To-Vehicle Technology

Forward Collision Warning (FCW) — Warns the driver if she fails to brake when a vehi­cle in the driver’s path is stopped or traveling slower and there is a potential risk of collision.

Lane Change Warning/Blind Spot Warning (LCW/BSW) — Warns the driver when he tries to change lanes if there is a car in the blind spot or an overtaking vehicle.

Emergency Electric Brake Light Warning (EEBL) — Notifies the driver that there is a vehicle ahead (or several vehicles ahead) that the driver can’t see, but which is braking hard for some reason.

Intersection Movement Assist (IMA) — Warns the driver when it is not safe to enter an intersection — for example, when something is blocking the driver’s view of opposing or crossing traffic.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation

In the 1983 comedy, Mr. Mom, newly unemployed auto company engineer played by Michael Keaton makes a classic drop-off blunder. Keaton drives his station wagon the “wrong way” through his children’s school drop-off lane ignoring the advice of his small children.

As a result, Keaton is forced to roll down his window and face a yellow-raincoat-clad school crossing guard who declares with authority, “You are doing it wrong.”

More than once in the last few weeks that all too familiar phrase has come to mind, fueled by repeated episodes of crawling vehicles, traffic snarls, and in some cases, drivers who are unequipped to tackle the challenges of winter driving.

The large amounts of snow, ice and slush have brought about both treacherous and contentious driving situations. However, some day many driving blunders most likely will be a thing of the past. That day might just come sooner than many think.

In an attempt to improve vehicle safety and lower the number of vehicle-related accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently proposed requiring new cars to have vehicle-to-vehicle technology that would allow cars to communicate with one another.

But not in the way some drivers would like. The technology won’t be used to vent your frustrations to other drivers. There will be no buttons on futuristic cars’ dashboard to signal to other drivers to move over, drive faster, slower, etc. And it doesn’t look like there will be a “you-are-doing-it-wrong” button either.

However, the technology, known as V2V, would have the potential to warn drivers of imminent collisions. The U.S. Department of Transportation has indicated that a set of concrete rules for auto manufacturers should be announced by 2017.

My husband and I were rear-ended at the corner of Naper Boulevard and Chicago Avenue. Stopped at the light, the driver hit our vehicle at full speed from behind. Stunned by the sudden jolt, to this day, whenever traffic suddenly stops, my eyes immediately dart to my rearview mirror to see what could be lurking behind.

With the technology that is being developed, accidents like the one I experienced could more easily be avoided.

“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 contends that vehicle to vehicle technology will continuously capture data such as speed and location flowing from nearby vehicles. However, no exchanging or recording of personal information or tracking vehicle movements will occur.

The data can identify risks and provide drivers with warnings to avoid common crash scenarios such as rear-end, lane change and intersection collisions.

Foxx is calling the new technology, the first-step building block for additional technology that could potentially assist drivers with steering, braking and accelerating, or even taking over driving for a vehicle in cases of emergencies.

Google, after all, has been testing driverless cars in plain sight for years now. In addition, virtually all U.S. car manufacturers are testing some type of driverless car technology.

If this technology were available 30 years ago, Keaton’s character wouldn’t have been scolded by a crossing guard or needed instructions from his kids. His car would have told him the “right” way to go or even done the driving for him.