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Talking-Car Plans Advance as U.S. Says Lives to Be Saved

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Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Transportation Department moved forward on writing rules that may mandate automakers’ use of talking-car technology, saying more than a thousand lives a year might be saved on the nation’s roadways.

Two of the most promising crash-avoidance technologies warning drivers of oncoming vehicles may prevent 592,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives annually, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in rulemaking notice today on so-called vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

“By warning drivers of imminent danger, V2V technology has the potential to dramatically improve highway safety,” said David Friedman, the agency’s acting administrator. “V2V technology is ready to move toward implementation.”

Technology companies including Cisco Systems Inc. are among those vying to build the architecture for the connected car of the future. Google Inc. and Tesla Motors Inc. are among companies looking at employing automated systems that may be precursors to self-driving cars.

The technology lets cars automatically exchange safety data such as speed and position 10 times per second, and sends warnings to drivers if an imminent collision is sensed, the Transportation Department has said.

A research paper backing U.S. rules looked at two technologies. Left-turn assist warns drivers not to turn if an oncoming vehicle is approaching. Intersection-movement assist alerts motorists to stop short if there’s a high probability of a collision.

Airwaves Needed

Automakers and technology companies have skirmished over whether the radio spectrum that’s been reserved for research into automotive communications should be shared for other uses, such as Wi-Fi. Carmakers such as General Motors Co. have said more research needs to be done to show that sharing the airwaves won’t interfere with safety.

Google, Microsoft Corp. and Comcast Corp. announced an advocacy group earlier this year, WiFiForward, to push for more access to airwaves. The Federal Communications Commission has been weighing such a move.

Automakers say they’ve spent tens of millions of dollars developing technology, using the airwaves, and the results represent a safety advance on the magnitude of air bags and seat belts. The systems may be installed in new cars, at a cost of about $100 a vehicle, or sold for installation after a car is purchased.

“The country is well on its way to deploying this life-saving technology,” John Bozzella, president and chief executive officer of Global Automakers, a Washington-based trade group, said in a statement today. “More than ever, we need to preserve the space on the spectrum that these safety systems rely on to operate. There is no better use of this spectrum than to save lives.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Romaine Bostick at rbostick@bloomberg.net Elizabeth Wasserman, Steve Geimann

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