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March 2, 2014

V2V system could come standard, but not cheap

In early February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it will begin taking steps to enable vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication for cars and light-duty trucks. NHTSA says that by allowing V2V, vehicles could exchange basic data, such as speed and position. The system would then warn a driver of a possible collision, but would not automatically stop or steer the vehicle. NHTSA plans to publish a report on V2V technology in a few weeks detailing its technical feasibility, privacy and security issues, and estimated cost and safety benefits. The department claims that when fully implemented, V2V could prevent roughly 5.1 million accidents a year and save 18,000 lives.

Transportation secretary Anthony Foxx wants to have new regulations ready by January 2017, when President Barack Obama leaves office.

It’s a noble goal. Technology that saves lives is always worth investigating, but it costs money.

A 2004 NHTSA report that looked at safety features on cars from 1967 through 2002 estimated that 4 percent of a 2002 model car’s weight and $839 — or $1,086 today — in cost were the result of federal safety standards.

Since that study was released, the government has insisted on further safety systems not included in that cost, such as electronic stability control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Now comes V2V, a system that will increase the cost of a new car that, on average, cost almost $31,000 in 2013. Whatever added costs V2V regulations will add to cars, it will be in addition to the extra $3,000 federal fuel economy regulations are expected to add to the cost of a new car or truck by the year 2025. And V2V adds weight, which makes meeting that fuel economy requirement tougher.

Moreover, the true benefit of this technology will be realized only when a majority of vehicles are equipped with it. Given the average age of a car in the United States is 11.4 years, it’s going to take some time for V2V to be particularly effective.

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