V2V and V2I: Holy grail for vehicular safety?

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We believe this technology has the potential to save thousands of lives each year while, at the same time, offering the opportunity to reduce congestion and provide other services to vehicle drivers.” –Ronald Medford, deputy administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speaking at the Vision Zero conference held at the Swedish embassy in Washington D.C.

So, I’ve decided to revisit the “vehicle-to-vehicle” and “vehicle-to-infrastructure” communication topic here; two systems known more widely as “V2V and “V2I” technology, respectively. The reason is pretty simple – these two systems seem to represent the “holy grail,” in a manner of speaking, to vehicle safety experts; especially to those in government.

But, all hyperbole aside, these experts may very well be on to something here.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for one is in the midst of a four-year pilot project right now testing out V2V and V2I systems, not only in terms of their potential safety capabilities (among other features) but how such technology can help ease traffic congestion while reducing pollution and fuel consumption.

“We see great hope for safety in the future through the deployment of safety technology,” noted Ron Medford (at right), NHTSA’s deputy administrator, in a speech at the Vision Zero conference held at the Swedish embassy in Washington D.C. last week.

“We’re doing some fairly exciting work on vehicle-based technologies such as Forward Collision Warning Systems and Lane Departure Warning Systems that provide drivers a little extra help when they need it most,” he added. “Other technologies such as those capable of detecting vulnerable road-users such as pedestrians and cyclists also show great promise … [part of] the future safety benefits of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, or V2V.”

[You can view some of Medford’s comments on the subject here. Sorry for how dark the video is; the main conference room at the Swedish embassy is painted midnight black, ceiling to floor!]

Medford noted that NHTSA is already into the second year of a four-year effort to test V2V that is part of the Department of Transportation’s “Intellidrive” program.

Robert Bertini, Ph.D., P.E., and deputy administrator of the DOT’s research and innovative technology administration or “RITA” is heading up this pilot test in his role as director of the intelligent transportation systems joint program office.

[And either he has a business card the size of a clipboard to fit all his titles upon or the type is really, REALLY small!]

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Bertini (at left) noted in a speech earlier this year that “open platform” V2V and V2I communications will be the major driving technology for safety and other enhancements to all manner of vehicles in the none-too-distant future.

Such dedicated short range communications (DSRC) systems such as V2V and V2I will also “be more cross modal, including rail and maritime equipment, cars, trucks, buses, fleets, and vehicles of all kinds,” he said.

“This project will ensure that vehicle communications are interoperable across all vehicles regardless of make or model as well,” noted NHTSA’s Medford. “The Intellidrive effort will also help us determine the minimum performance levels and safety benefits enabled by V2V.”

And those benefits could be wide ranging, Bertini underscored.

On the safety front, these technologies can hopefully help reduce the 33,808 fatalities, 2.22 million injuries, and 5.51 million crashes suffered on U.S. roadways – making traffic accidents the leading cause of death for ages 4 to 34, he said.

In terms of accessibility, reliability and mobility, V2V and V2I are expected to help reduce the 4.2 billion hours of travel delays on U.S. roads, which translates into a $78 billion tab in terms of urban traffic congestion, Bertini noted. Finally, there are emissions and fuel savings factors, as transportation contributes 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas GHG emissions, with traffic congestion wasting some 2.9 billion gallons of fuel.

[Here’s how some of these other benefits are supposed to be gained … though in this video, “V2I” is called vehicle infrastructure integration or “VII.” So many acronyms …]

Of course, all of this is still in the testing stage and no doubt many “bugs” need to be worked out; not to mention the enormous task of getting such technologies smoothly integrated across such a wide range of equipment (rail cars, trucks, buses and cars to name but a few.)

Still, if V2V and V2I can be successfully integrated and indeed do help drivers avoid travel delays, saving them both time and money, I think you’d see support for wider use of this technology from more than a few folks within the trucking business. But of course we’re not quite there yet. We still need to wait and see how this works in the real world.

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