Vehicle-to-vehicle communication may finally be mandatory on new cars

December 14, 2016

Vehicle-to-vehicle communications promises to be a very big deal. Allowing automobiles to "talk" to one another could dramatically improve traffic flow and slash the number of car crashes by more than half. Working hand-in-hand with self-driving systems, the benefits could be even bigger. 

Engineers and regulators have been exploring V2V  for years, and there's been a lot of discussion about when the technology will be required on new cars. (Note: not "if", but "when".) Now, the Department of Transportation has finally started moving aggressively in that direction.

Yesterday, the DOT officially proposed a mandate that all new cars come equipped with V2V systems. If approved, the regulation would require that automakers begin phasing in the technology within two years. Four years after the rules go into effect, every new car in America would have to have a V2V system--though of course, owners of older models wouldn't have to retrofit their cars.

The good, the not-so-good

The DOT says that mandating V2V technology offers a host of benefits to both motorists and pedestrians, including a significant reduction in the number of crashes and fatalities on U.S. roads; reduced congestion and improved travel times; and fuel savings of up to 22 percent. (You can read the agency's brief overview of benefits here.)

There are, however, a couple of downsides. Cost is obviously one of those: the DOT estimates that adding V2V systems would increase the price of cars by $135 to $300 each. Given the fact that few Americans can truly afford new cars, even a small increase like this is bad news. Then again, in a few years, maybe we'll all get around by Uber, so ownership won't be an issue, right?

Another major downside is that V2V technology necessarily creates a network of cars, and any time there's a network, it becomes hackable. The DOT proposal involves firewalling V2V systems from other vehicle tech and hardening V2V equipment to prevent intrusion or tampering. However, as we've seen before, it's nearly impossible to keep out a determined hacker. (Just ask the DNC.)

At the moment, a final ruling on the DOT's mandate is expected in 2019. If that timeline sticks, automakers would begin phasing in the technology in 2021, with all new cars required to have V2V by 2023. 

For more on this story, check out our colleagues at Motor Authority. You can find the full text of the DOT's proposal--all 392 pages of it--here.

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