According to the CDC, more than 32,000 Americans die in automobile crashes every year; indeed, car crashes are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 4 and 35. Fortunately, traveling WiFi could soon make America’s roads safer. The Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot, a yearlong test of V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communication, is wrapping up in Ann Arbor, Mich. Assuming results are positive, mobile WiFi could soon be seen as a crucial safety feature in the modern automobile.
Here’s how the mobile WiFi technology would work: Cars and trucks would be equipped with a traveling wireless internet device that would emit a safety message 10 times per second. Similar gadgets would be installed in other vehicles and in road infrastructure including traffic signals, pavement sensors and work zone equipment. In effect, this would create a mobile wireless internet network just for traffic. The onboard sensor for each vehicle would scan for potential dangers and send the driver a warning when an unsafe situation looms. This potential “game changer in roadway safety,” as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator David Strickland has called it, could help drivers with:
- Intersection movement assist
- Forward collision warning
- Do not pass warning
- Left turn assist
- Emergency break light warning
- Blind spot/lane change warning
The NHTSA has already completed the first half of the Safety Pilot study, in which drivers in six different cities tested out the technology in parking structures and test tracks. The data from these driver clinics are encouraging. Ninety percent of drivers who participated said they wanted this kind of safety assist technology in their own cars, and 74.5 percent of them said the mobile WiFi warning system was no more distracting than a car radio.
In the second half of the Safety Pilot study, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute was enlisted to create a test environment in Ann Arbor, Mich. About 3,000 cars and trucks are included in the test, which is slated to conclude this fall. The data from this test will help NHTSA administrators determine whether V2V and V2I traveling WiFi safety devices are reliable and safe enough for broader application. Some experts estimate that this new form of vehicle communication could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of 80 percent crashes in which drivers are unimpaired. Given how many lives this technology could save, we’re looking forward to the day when consistent, dependable V2V and V2I mobile wireless internet is available for all makes and models.