back to article This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives

The US government wants to save lives on the road by demanding a safety-focused wireless communication standard for moving vehicles. Uncle Sam's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hopes to create a standardized vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) system in which cars and small trucks can automatically share data about …

  1. Gray Ham

    A couple of thoughts here ...

    This system would rely on pretty much universal adoption in order to work effectively (and somehow would have to be retrofitted to older vehicles), so the cost of this is going to be quite significant. And, if it slows the development and introduction of self-driving technology, the benefits may be questionable - whereas autonomous vehicles with self-driving features could be introduced gradually.

    In addition, although multi-vehicle accidents are common, most accidents are either single-vehicle or involve pedestrians/cyclists (Australian Bureau of Stats figures here), in which circumstances the technology would likely not be very effective.

    Still, if it works and can be effectively implemented, who am I to criticise?

    1. Charles Manning

      Universal maintenance too

      If these things are talking to eachother and giving eachother hints, then this opens up a whole lot of interesting issues.

      Currently, the reliability of your car depends largely on things you can control: what you buy, howe well you look after it, etc etc.

      Now some other bloke's car is telling your car what to do. The firmware he forgot to update is DOSSing your comms with other vehicles or sending bogus "I'm braking" messages which are confusing your car.

      Adding complexity and obscuring responsibility is a bad thing. People will just put their foot down and hope the computers all sort it out.

      Bugger this... I'm walking.

      1. LaeMing Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Bugger this... I'm walking.

        That won't protect you from other's cars (which now can't see you at all since you don't have V2V built into your body... yet!)

    2. VinceH

      "and somehow would have to be retrofitted to older vehicles"

      Quite - not to mention the inevitable risks from hacking (so bogus signals can be sent to other cars), jamming (someone's bound to... it'll be illegal, but someone will), and the communication being extended to become YATS (yet another tracking system).

      A simpler, and probably safer, system would be entirely self contained. Put further time and development effort into sensors that will recognise other things on the road, and correlate them with the speed and direction of the vehicle, giving the driver signals and warnings as appropriate.

      I've no problem with that data being recorded and made available to insurance companies and plod only where the car is then involved in an accident or is pulled over legitimately for some errant behaviour. It should not be routinely available.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: pretty much universal adoption

      It doesn't actually have to be universal adoption. I'd think you might see some changes with as little as 10% adoption and significant change at 50%. Traffic tends to move in slugs. If you are moving in a slug and looking at the car in front of you instead of a car three ahead in the slug, you'll never have time to react to a sudden changes. Depending on the exact range of "short range" that would give you three cars and so long as one of them gives you warning, you can adjust based on the tech. At 50% adoption and even distribution you'd only have a 13% chance that none of the cars would provide data.

  2. G R Goslin

    ???????

    It's not April the first, is it? I thought the "talk to each other" idea went out with CB radio

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Darwinism in action

    Now that we have autonomous cars, wouldn't it make more sense to place seats on the outside of the cars preferably as front and rear impact bumpers? Then we could slowly reduce the population of troubled folks who can't deal with driving, society, laws, etc. This would especially apply to crims. Then the smashed auto can just be recycled as one large lump of garbage.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Darwinism in action

      Or as Jeremy Clarkson once said "if you stuck a big spike on the steering wheel instead of an airbag, ther would be less accidents"

      My issue is that wrench monkeys can't fix ABS and ECU issues now. They just blindly swap $1,000 modules. This would just make it worse.

  4. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Clear the intersection! An El Reg reader is coming through.

    1. Ralph B

      You bet!

      You bet there WILL be an "Emergency Vehicle Coming Through! Move Over!" message in this new V2V protocol. And, you bet, it WILL be misused by politicos-in-a-hurry, and hackers in general.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should've just built roundabouts.

    1. Zack Mollusc

      Roundabouts

      Roundabouts are only a short-term solution to the problem of traffic-light companies bribing corrupt officials into buying their products.

      The traffic-light companies bribe corrupt officials into putting traffic lights on the roundabouts.

      1. phil dude
        WTF?

        Re: Roundabouts

        and if the junction is a low priority local council budget item, there can be oscillations every year from traffic light to roundabout to traffic light....

        P.

      2. Ralph B

        Re: Roundabouts

        > The traffic-light companies bribe corrupt officials into putting traffic lights on the roundabouts.

        The British solution to that problem is to put another roundabout on each entry/exit of the main roundabout. Don't believe me? Visit Swindon or Hemel Hempstead.

        1. kiwimuso
          Devil

          @ Ralph B Re: Roundabouts

          "Visit Swindon or Hemel Hempstead."

          Or Colchester's Magic Roundabout (Google it)!!! Where you can go either way around the roundabout. One of my worst and scariest ever driving experiences in the U.K. - especially when it's your first time to the area, it's on a winter's night, and it's pissing down with rain and you can't see the road markings!

          I couldn't tell who the hell I should be giving way to, so in the end waited for a suitable gap and just went, only to have a car come from my right with horn blaring.

          Sorry chum, if that oxymoron known as a "road designer" had built a normal roundabout I wouldn't have had a problem. Likewise all those thousands of motorists who travel through it every day but have now got used to it.

          Spawn of Satan icon because this roundabout is, and was probably designed by same.

    2. Tom 13

      Never trust a 'Merkin to build a roundabout.

      Take a look at this: https://www.google.com/maps/@38.9094972,-77.0432502,215m/data=!3m1!1e3

      Not sure if you can tell from the imagery but they've got traffic lights on that damn thing as well as cattle shoots. Get in the wrong lane and you WON'T be able to just slide into the correct one, you'll just come out the other side with no idea where the hell you are.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        "Never trust a 'Merkin to build a roundabout."

        Well now the gauntlet has been thrown down! I've never seen anyone back up to reach a missed turn in a roundabout until I was in France a few weeks ago.

        I have seen a few Americans do a couple of extra turns until they figured out which lane to be in. But that's the advantage of a roundabout in dealing with such screw-ups.

      2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        For one thing, we call them "traffic circle"

        For another, how American can it be if we can't shoot cattle?

      3. Mike Moyle Silver badge

        Re: Never trust a 'Merkin to build a roundabout.

        https://www.google.com/maps/@51.507584,-0.127719,3a,75y,90h,90t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sHoEB2N_OUWXqydIeM_0VtQ!2e0!3e5

        Stupid Americans... Oh, wait... Did *WE* design this rotary with the traffic lights...?

        As to the one that you showed -- Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.; you can blame the French for that! Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed it in a grid, with diagonal streets radiating from large open squares spaced around the city. Which worked passably well for horses and carriages, but not so well for lots and LOTS of cars. Rotaries were the only real answer. And with lots of cars, and lots of pedestrians wanting to use the greenspaces in the middle of those areas, yeah... Short of constructing pedestrian over- or under-passes to go from the outside of the rotary to the park in the middle, stoplights at pedestrian crossings were really the best solution in a high-traffic area like that.

        Specifically regarding Dupont Circle: Given the limitations imposed by L'Enfant's original street layout, there are only two streets on which you can unerringly pass through the intersection: Massachusetts and Connecticut Avenues. Mass. Ave. (The one that runs from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock) uses the inner ring of the rotary.You can only ENTER the inner ring FROM Massachusetts Ave., and you can only EXIT it ONTO Massachusetts Ave., so it's not like you don't know where you're coming out -- you're coming out on the same street that you started on, going in the same direction, just on the the other side of the Circle. While one COULD enter from one of the other streets and veer into the inner ring at one of the Mass. Ave. entrances, you'd pretty much have to ACTIVELY turn into it -- the "bump-outs" to the outer ring at the Mass. Ave. exits and the divider between the two are fairly obvious guides. With Connecticut Ave. (The next street clockwise from Mass. Ave.), you can either ENTER the rotary, or -- if you simply want to continue down Connecticut -- pass UNDER it and come out on the other side, staying on Connecticut the whole time. Considering that L'Enfant's plan put FIVE major thoroughfares crossing in that square, it actually seems a rather elegant solution.

  6. ammabamma
    Holmes

    Gaze into the crystal ball...

    I will use my finely tuned psychic skills, honed through service on the level 2 helldesk, to predict the future (For the love of $DIETY somebody please prove me wrong...):

    1. There will end up being no fewer than 3 incompatible standards for car to car comms. Microsoft, Google, and the EU will all try to add their own "must have" extensions to the specs.

    2. The documentation will be safely ensconced behind a multi-hundred (thousand?) $$$ paywall.

    3. There will be at least 2 buffer overflows discovered in the first 18 months after release.

    4. FVEY will "request" an API hook to slurp all that telemetry goodness.

    5. The actual protocol will look like the spawn of Codethulu:

    - Binary with tightest possible bit-packing.

    - Irregular field widths

    - Discriminator bits that distinguish between two variants of a bit span—located after the span

    - etc....

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Gaze into the crystal ball...

      And hackers will reverse-engineer the thing to include messages like "your car sucks" or endless "fuck you !"s to be sent randomly and only in presence of at least two other vehicles so as to not be able to trace the origin.

    2. Lionel Baden

      Re: Gaze into the crystal ball...

      You forgot facebook feeds

  7. Tom 35 Silver badge

    The same asshats that

    Modify their pickups to produce thick black smoke screens for fun, will be able to add a second button to send fake messages to cars behind in the smoke screen.

  8. dan1980

    No.

    Just no.

  9. H.Winter
    Meh

    Left turn assist?

    Never heard of it and had to look it up. Do people really need the car to tell them 'The oncoming traffic is close/approaching fast - Do not turn in front of it' ?

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Left turn assist?

      Some peeps certainly do. I had to brake hard (as the oncoming driver) just this weekend. Perhaps driverless cars could be programmed not to bother, if they don't have any occupants?

    2. Tom 13

      Re: Left turn assist?

      Oh, it's worse than that. Every seen Starman? AKA "Yellow light means go very very fast."?

      Yeah, there are people who use that warning the same way.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What

    could possibly go wrong?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the radio geeks amongst us....

    "The systems will use a region of the 5.9 GHz band set aside by the United States Congress in 1999, the unlicensed frequency also used by WiFi."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-to-vehicle

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whenever humans are given more protection for their own safety - they then become careless and take greater risks.

  13. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Clever backdoor..

    If this has to include vehicle ID you are basically looking at mandated wireless vehicle tracking in anything but name.

    No thanks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clever backdoor..

      .. and I'm sure they'll find a way to add in a remote immobiliser feature too, to put an end to car chases. The cops have been after a way to achieve that for ages. All fun and games when the crims figure out how to do it too, and car-jacking goes wild.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clever backdoor..

        All fun and games when the crims figure out how to do it too, and car-jacking goes wild.

        Yes, imagine a major calamity and all the emergency response vehicles die. It's almost like they WANT to lend bad people a hand..

  14. Frankee Llonnygog

    Flocking useful

    Swarming, and other animal group behaviours will also have interesting applications here

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flocking useful

      Swarming, and other animal group behaviours will also have interesting applications here

      What, all cars with female inhabitants refuelling together?

      /confused

  15. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Vehicular kinetic energy exchanges

    hopes to create a standardized vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) system in which cars and small trucks can automatically share data about their speed and direction

    That's nice. Now, what about big trucks? You know, those things with loads of blind spots.

  16. Yugguy

    And if it's an Audi

    The messages will consist of:

    "I'M MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU!!! I'M MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU!!! I'M MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU!!! I'M MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU!!! I'M MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU!!!"

    1. BongoJoe

      Re: And if it's an Audi

      The BMW message:

      THE OVERTAKING LANE IS MINE, ALL MINE! THE OVERTAKING LANE IS MINE, ALL MINE!

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Go

        Re: And if it's an Audi

        The Toyota Prius (Pious?) message:

        I'm saving the planet and you're not! I'm saving the planet and you're not!!

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: And if it's an Audi

      Camry:

      Merging into the more dignified fast lane. Bit of acceleration... Woah, scary fast! Brakes! OMG, everyone's honking and swerving! CRAP! CRAP! BRAKES! Blinker for slower lane... SCARY TRUCKS!! Brakes! Acceleration.. ABORT LANE CHANGE! Brakes! WHO'S HONKING AT ME? Is there an express lane with less traffic?

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TCAS?

    Isn't that TCAS, that already exists, but now built for cars?

    I fail to understand why a whole protocol must be created.

  19. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    That sound you hear

    Is every used-car dealer in America singing Hallelujah.

  20. William Boyle

    Time to hack

    From deployment to fully pwnd devices - less than 1 week. More likely less than a day... Maroons! Can you spell "instant gridlock"?

  21. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Stop

    Why this is a bad idea....

    1) A federally-mandated standard, that will be unduly influenced by the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense. I'd expect that by the time it is really done there will at least be required firmware upgrades that enable vehicle tracking and deactivation by the government.

    2) When was the last time you saw a federally-mandated standard that was truly secure or that was elegantly designed instead of being a hash?

    3) The new electronics and probable requirements to upgrade older cars going to markedly increase the cost of cars for the many poor Americans who rely on used cars and already suffer from the high cost/unavailability of transportation.

    4) I can think of much cheaper ways to save 1000 traffic deaths annually. Examples: Clearing trees and parked cars from blind intersections. Traffic light-synchronized gates on actual problem intersections. More responsive public transportation and better zoning laws to improve commutes. the last one will also help reduce pollution.

    5) Hackers using this to shut down roadways or spoof messages from car to car or insert ransomware.

    6) Fix-it tickets because your car-to-car electronics are not working. Oh wait, they are--its the cops' RF detector that wasn't working or being used correctly.

  22. kiwimuso
    Stop

    Braking?

    "I'm braking, why aren't you braking?"

    Because, you fuckwit, I have no need to brake because I saw people braking several millenia in front of you, and I have just taken my foot off the accelerator, thus already slowing down and allowing ample room between your vehicle and mine!

    If I need to, I will brake, but until then get outta my face.

    And also as a consequence, not putting the shits up people following behind causing them to apply their brakes, and so on and so on, thus bringing a whole line of cars to an eventual standstill, simply because everyone reacted to (horrors) brakelights in front of them, and because they were travelling too closely, and/or they were distracted by their phone/stereo/kids/passengers etc, rather paying attention to what they were doing, and watching what the traffic was doing several cars in front of theirs. Admittedly not helped by large vehicles in front like trucks, SUVs, vans etc but if you allow enough space you get better vision ahead and also give yourself time to react if the vehicle in front slows down.

    It often amazes me the faith that some drivers have in other driver's attention and reaction time, as they seem to think nothing of just changing lanes in front of other drivers - especially so in wet weather.

    Also a great reliance on the braking efficiency/ability of the other driver's vehicles.

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