By DAVID KERLEY and ALEXANDER MALLIN
In what top transportation officials are calling a "moon shot" for drivers on American highways, the Obama administration intends to require new cars to include technology that would enable the vehicles to talk to each other and avoid crashes.
The Department of Transportation estimates this new vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology could cut down on crashes by as much as 80 percent, with the potential of saving as many as 20,000 American lives each year.
The DOT hopes to have the new regulation in place by 2016, the end of President Obama's term.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said today the communication technology would be the next revolution in auto-safety improvements, akin to the introduction of air bags or seat belts.
Officials said while the department has been working for years to develop technology that increases survivability in the event of the crash, V2V could be the key in preventing crashes from happening altogether.
V2V wireless technology would alert drivers of "imminent crash situations," using a communications beacon that emits a safety message analyzing vehicle speed, direction and relative position 10 times per second. The technology were alert drivers of crash situations several vehicles ahead of them.
DOT Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Greg Winfree called it a "signal-sending announcement" to the auto industry, in an effort to start a conversation towards implementing the emerging technology.
The DOT launched a test project of the V2V technology in Ann Arbor, Mich., in August 2012. The department said the 3,000 test vehicles have so far shown the technology could potentially prevent as much as 80 percent of crash scenarios where the drivers are not impaired.
According to the DOT, the V2V technology wouldn't compromise personal privacy because the data-gathering process doesn't involve the exchanging or recording of personal information.
Scott Belcher, the president of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, said the technology could bump up the cost of car production costs by $100 to $200, and drivers could expect to see V2V-equipped vehicles on the road within the next two to five years.
Belcher said the cost would be well worth the advantages afforded with the technology. There are around 30,000 accident-related deaths in the U.S. each year.
Foxx said the department will release results of an initial study into the technology in the coming weeks, which he hopes will start movement towards policy and rule-making discussions with industry leaders.