If the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has its way, your car may soon be able to perceive potential accidents before they happen.
The NHTSA is working on a proposal that would eventually lead to cars which can communicate with each other, in order to avoid motor vehicle accidents and ultimately save lives.
While this may sound like a science fiction fantasy, David Strickland, administrator of the NHTSA is serious about the proposal. He recently suggested that such a system could eliminate 80 percent of highway crashes.
In a keynote address to the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, Strickland said, "The connected future really does hold a tremendous amount of promise. To have your vehicle communicate that someone's run a red light and give you a warning," according to a story in the Detroit News.
Last year became a landmark year for NHTSA, when it announced the national traffic fatality and injury numbers for 2010. Fatal Accidents and overall traffic fatalities fell to their lowest absolute number since 1949, with 32,885 deaths.
It is hard to describe more than 30,000 deaths as cause for celebration; nonetheless, it represents an almost 25 percent reduction in highway fatalities from 2006.
However, it also represents 32,885 people who were alive on January 1, 2010 and who didn't live to see 2011. It represents thousands of families wounded, carrying the emotional scars of a father, mother, son or daughter who never came home.
It also fails to account for the all of those who needed emergency room treatment for injuries from crashes, which in 2009 was 2.3 million. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, "In one year alone, deaths and injuries to drivers and passengers from crashes cost $70 billion in medical and lost work."
We Can Do Better
Google is also at work on a driverless car that they claim is within 10 years of being a commercial reality. With NHTSA also focused on this type of technology, cars that actively communicate and work to prevent accidents could appear sooner than expected.
When examining highway fatalities and injury numbers, these vehicles can't arrive soon enough.