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.
For example, your smart phone already has all the hardware needed for vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Thus, in the short run it would be far less expensive to simply develop an app that could communicate with cars and encourage people to download and use it. If done right, this could also result in far faster market penetration. In the long run, self-driving cars (which will work just as well with or without vehicle-to-vehicle systems) will greatly reduce auto fatalities, rendering the projected savings from vehicle-to-vehicle communications moot.
A mandate that one technology be used in all cars also opens the transportation system to potential hackers. The communications would necessarily be tied to automobile controls, which means that anyone who understands it could take control of every car in a city at once. If individual manufacturers were allowed to develop their own technologies, the use of multiple systems would make an attack both more difficult and less attractive.
Comments can be mailed to:
Docket Management Facility, M–30
U.S. Department of Transportation
West Building, Ground Floor, Rm. W12–140
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE.
Washington, DC 20590.
You can also submit them on line.