The idea of a talking car is really nothing new. Children of the 1980s grew up enamored by a talking car named KITT, the Knight Industries Two Thousand (later named the Knight Industries Three Thousand for those who remember the 2008 movie and series). But under a newly-described regulation, vehicles newly made in the United States would be capable of talking...to each other.
The regulation would require newly-made vehicles to be able to communicate back and forth via a kind of wireless technology, a measure that's widely seen as one that would reduce automobile accidents as well as cut back on traffic congestion by helping to keep traffic moving along at close to the same rate, thus improving overall traffic flow. Though the exact details of such implementation are as yet unknown, some believe it may even kick off a field of new applications known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) safety applications, technology that allows vehicles to better communicate and even potentially respond.
Such technology has been mentioned in concert with such things as the self-driving car, the kind of thing that might well help such systems better orient the vehicle on the road and potentially avoid collisions by knowing where other vehicles are in relation to itself and how to avoid said other vehicles accordingly. Beyond the self-driving vehicle, however, the V2V technology can also help in vehicles being driven by actual users, providing critical information on, say, the presence of vehicles in a blind spot or in low-visibility conditions.
As ever, there are some issues of privacy here, though the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued notice that the data involved in V2V doesn't involve personal details, although there is a “defined procedure” that can be used to identify specific vehicles “only if there is a need to fix a safety problem,” a response that likely has privacy wonks' eyes rolling into the nearest neighboring state.
Perhaps sensing this reaction, the head of communications for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Gloria Bergquist, offered a bit of commentary noting that “many pieces of a large puzzle still need to fit together.” Bergquist went on to better define these pieces as issues of “...security and privacy, along with consumer acceptance, affordability, achieving the critical mass to enable the 'network effect' and establishment of the necessary legal and regulatory framework.”
That may be the biggest issue of all. Indeed, it may be difficult to get the “consumer acceptance” part of the ball rolling, especially without the “security and privacy” as well as “affordability” in place. Many are already skittish about any new government regulation after the recent issues surrounding the Affordable Care Act, and may not be terribly interested in such technologies. But then, if the idea of the self-driving car is brought into play alongside these new technologies, that may help to perk up the consumer acceptance once the rest of the equation is brought in line with consumer expectations as well.
This is a very new step in terms of vehicle use. It's unclear just how far it will actually go, or if it even will reach the public. But there are certainly plenty of possibilities to go with it, and the potential that this could change driving as we know it.
Edited by Ryan Sartor