It’s a nice idea: Each car is equipped with a wireless beacon, transmitting speed, direction and whatnot to other cars. For years, people have been dreaming about this. Now they could have found the killer app for the technology: By mashing up that information, collision courses could be plotted and lives could be saved. Exactly that was demonstrated yesterday to federal officials in Washington.
“In the demonstration in the parking lot near RFK Stadium,” reports the Washington Post, “the system notified a driver when it detected another car speeding through a red light in an upcoming intersection, of several cars blocking the highway ahead, and of a car zooming up from behind.”
The NHTSA wants to make that system mandatory by 2013. In order to work, it must be mandatory. A car without a beacon will not exist as far as this system is concerned. Even if mandatory in new cars, it would take 15 to 20 years until all cars on the road will jabber away in a huge chat room.
A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in October reported that such “vehicle-to-vehicle” warning systems could address nearly 80 percent of reported crashes that do not involve drunk drivers.
The trouble is: The majority of fatal accidents are single vehicle accidents. Of the 33,808 fatal accidents recorded in 2009 in NHTSA’s FARS database, 19,869 were single vehicle accidents, where this system would do absolutely nothing, unless each tree and lamp post is equipped with a beacon. Only 13,939 were multiple vehicle accidents.
So if we are supposed to remove DUI cases (why? Enabriated folk sure could use some beeps and blinks), then the system could “address” (not prevent) less than a third of the fatal accidents.
But then, a system that advertises speed and direction of a car would be any administrator’s dream. No more RADAR or red light cameras needed. GPS trackers in every car! Makes you want to get out and walk.