Car-to-Car Communication Impacts Driver Safety

Hariharan Krishnan, a researcher at General Motors, Inc., created the first ever car to wirelessly communicate with other vehicles.

The new vehicles will be able to detect collisions before they happen. This will allow cars to broadcast their position, speed, brake status, and steering-wheel position to other vehicles with that technology installed. According to the Michigan Institute of Technology (MIT), “the other cars can use such information to build a detailed picture of what’s unfolding around them, revealing trouble that even the most careful and alert driver, or the best sensor system, would miss or fail to anticipate.”

The point of this wireless adaptation is to increase car safety and decrease the number of accidents occurring nationwide. According to the MIT report, “simply networking cars together wirelessly is likely to have a far bigger and more immediate effect on road safety.”

The article states over five million accidents happen in the US yearly, with approximately 30,000 of them being fatal. Yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes Vehicle-to-Vehicle communication can reduce over a million accidents and a thousand fatalities yearly and over 81% of accidents over the course of a lifetime.

Krishnan has programmed the vehicles to react to a variety of dangerous scenarios. One example is an impending car crash. The seats will shake to alert the driver to brake when an obscured car is speeding forward. In other scenarios where the car is dangerously close to another object, the car will sound an alarm. When nearing a moving vehicle, the car will say “oncoming vehicle” to warn the driver when obscured.

The cars use an 802.11p wireless signal, which is a faster and enhanced version of Wi-Fi. This is strong enough for cars to communicate not only with each other, but with highway infrastructure such as roads and bridges with that technology installed, as well. The range of this communication falls between 300 and 900 feet.

MIT and NHTSA equipped over 30,000 vehicles with this technology this past year in order to test its impact. The experimental communication transmitters in those cars proved that communicating with each other does in fact positively impact safety.

Although this communication is proven to have a positive impact on driver safety, a few obstacles plague the spread of the communicative vehicles. Slate Magazine author Andy Greenberg believes this new invention could potentially be a security risk. “Cars that talk to each other could be easier to hack,” he says.

According to Jonathan Petit, a researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, “The vehicle is saying ‘I’m Alice, this is my location, this is my speed and my direction,’ everyone around you can listen to that.” Due to the range falling below 900 feet, Petit believes it forms a good mechanism for surveillance by hackers or even the government.

Another challenge is the inability for it to be installed into older cars, which limits the number of cars on the road that can communicate wirelessly.

Although many challenges face vehicle-to-vehicle communication, the effort to create safer roads by Krishnan remains prevalent.

This new technology will first appear in the 2017 Cadillac, and although it will be the first of its kind, General Motors has committed to installing the technology in many more cars to come