Comments on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration‘s proposed vehicle-to-vehicle communications mandate are due one week from today on April 12. If approved, this will be one of the most expensive vehicle safety rules ever, adding around $300 dollars to the price of every car, or (at recent car sales rates) well over $5 billion per year.
Despite the high cost, the NHTSA predicts the rule will save only about 25 to 31 lives in 2025, mainly because it will do no good until most cars have it. Yet even by 2060, when virtually all cars would have it, NHTSA predicts it will save only about 1,000 to 1,365 lives per year.
The real danger is not that it will cost too much per life saved but that mandating one technology will inhibit the development and use of better technologies that could save even more lives at a lower cost. The technology the NHTSA wants to mandate is known as dedicated short-range communications, a form of radio. Yet advancements in cell phones, wifi, and other technologies could do the same thing better for less money.