The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of the Department of Transportation, published last week an "advanced notice of proposed rulemaking" on "vehicle-to-vehicle communications."
What NHTSA is proposing could begin a transformation in the American transportation system that makes our lives better and freer -- or gives government more power over where we go and when.
In announcing its proposed rulemaking, NHTSA is stressing its intention to protect the "privacy" of American drivers.
"This document initiates rulemaking that would propose to create a new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, FMVSS No. 150, to require vehicle-to-vehicle communication capability for light vehicles," says NHTSA's dryly-worded notice.
What do vehicle-to-vehicle communications entail?
NHTSA has crafted a nice phrase to describe the information cars would broadcast. It is the "Basic Safety Message."
"An integrated V2V system is connected to proprietary data busses and can provide highly accurate information using in-vehicle information to generate the Basic Safety Message," says NHTSA's technical report on "Readiness of V2V for Application."
"The integrated system both broadcasts and receives BSMs," says the report. "In addition, it can process the content of received messages to provide advisories and/or warnings to the driver of the vehicle in which it is installed."
The "Basic Safety Message" will be broadcast by the vehicle's dedicated short-range communications system. According to NHTSA, this system will need to transmit certain specific information.
"For example," says the technical report, "when a DSRC unit sends out a BSM, the BSM needs to: Contain the relevant elements and describe them accurately (e.g., vehicle speed; GPS position; vehicle heading; DSRC message ID, etc.)."
What NHTSA envisions mandating will not control people's cars but create a uniform communication system built into all vehicles that will give automobile manufacturers the opportunity to equip their products with warning systems that alert drivers to potential accidents -- such as one that might be caused by cross traffic at a blind intersection.
"NHTSA currently does not plan to propose to require specific V2V-based safety applications," says the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. "Rather, we plan to propose to require that new vehicles be equipped with DSRC devices, which will enable a variety of applications that may provide various safety-critical warnings to drivers."
But NHTSA does not envision that the use of this type of technology will stop there.