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Five “oops” moments for car-to-car talk

by David Zatz on

Recently, we posted an article on new US standards for car-to-car (and car-to-road-signals) communication. Some people were upset by the proposed rules, but mostly because of misunderstandings.

Without further ado:

  1. The messages sent by cars to each other, traffic lights, etc. will not contain any information about the cars themselves — no VIN, no license plates, no permanent identifying information — so they won’t be used to catch people drifting through red lights or going past 65 mph.
  2. “Smart” cars might be able to go through traffic lights on uncrowded roads more easily because the traffic lights will know they are coming and turn green. Drivers of “smart” cars can take advantage of this; other drivers, only if they somehow retrofit their cars. This is still just a “blue skies” proposal. The main reason for car-to-whatever communication is still safety.
  3. Given the ubiquity of OBDII ports in cars made since the mid-1990s, it seems likely that the aftermarket will create ways to retrofit cars for vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
  4. Any infrastructure changes based on car-to-car are at least a decade away, as it will take time first for the new cars to sell, then gain critical mass, before local governments even start making the investments in smart detour signs, stop signs, and such.
  5. The rules are not yet finalized. The United States Transportation Department (DOT) was not being a little dictator; they have been working with automakers for over ten years to create the rules, and only now sent a draft rule for public comment. So far the public comments appear to have been written mostly by people who didn’t read the rules.

It’s understandable that people would have concerns about a technology like this, but it’s not as though the DOT is pushing it over the objections of everyone else; automakers have been pushing the DOT to make standards so they won’t produce cars that have to be updated later. As it is, both Cadillac and Mercedes are going ahead next year; without some rules in place, there could be chaos as different systems give conflicting signals.

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