Cars That Communicate: The Highway of the Future

You’re driving down the city streets, heading towards an intersection at 30 miles per hour. With a green light, you plan to cruise right through. A car to your left, however, is about to run his red light and slam right into the driver’s side of your vehicle. The car is obscured from your view, so you can’t predict the impending accident. But your car can. A red warning light flashes on your dashboard and your car emits a loud alarm. You slam on the brakes, avoiding the accident just in time, thanks to your car’s new V2X technology.

Right now, this futuristic scene is only playing out in computer simulations, but in just a few years, it could be a commonplace part of your daily commute. V2X, also known as connected vehicle technology, is currently being developed by automakers like Ford Motor Company and Toyota. V2X allows cars to exchange information about speed, location and travel direction via a wireless network. This car-to-car communication system can then warn drivers if another car is about to cross their path—alerting the driver to brake in order to avoid an accident.

Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication

V2X could reduce or eliminate up to 80 percent of all accidents involving unimpaired drivers.

Automakers, along with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tout vehicle-to-vehicle communication as the next generation of vehicle safety technology. According to the NHTSA, V2X could reduce or eliminate up to 80 percent of all accidents involving unimpaired drivers. V2X may even develop from a warning system into a reaction system—with cars not only warning drivers of potential dangers on the road, but also automatically breaking to prevent them.

According to Gregory D. Winfree, acting administrator of the Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, V2X represents a major shift in how automakers, NHTSA and the public think about vehicle safety.

“The past 50 years have been about surviving vehicle crashes; the next 50 will be about preventing them,” Winfree told Consumer Reports.

But this future technology in cars also raises some concerns. Privacy groups worry about the technology’s “Big Brother” surveillance implications, as well as cyber security threats. What if, for example, a terrorist group hacked into the system, disabling V2X’s safety features and instead triggering accidents? In addition to potential cyber security threats, V2X developers have yet to address oversight concerns and the potential for privacy abuse.

However, the new car technology’s ability to save lives may outweigh these potential security and privacy concerns. According to NHTSA, more than 10 million motor vehicle crashes occur each year in the United States. In 2010, there were 32,885 fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for individuals aged five to 34.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems have the potential to help us arrive at our destination safely and more efficiently than ever before.

Would you purchase a car with V2X?