Your Car Will Be Networked to Every Other Car

by Foley & Lardner LLP
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Possibly as early as before the end of this decade every new car on the road will be connected to every other new car on the road. Cars may also be connected to traffic signs, traffic signals, smartphones and other devices. U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that this could prevent almost 600,000 crashes and save over 1,000 lives a year. The Government has issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment from interested people by October 20, 2014. The proposed rule will be released in 2016.

The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute already has a Safety Pilot Model Deployment with almost 3,000 vehicles driven by volunteers. That program uses Dedicated Short Range Communications in its equipment over the 73 miles of roads around Ann Arbor, MI to collect data. Not only are vehicles involved in the communication, but the entire road transportation infrastructure will eventually be connected. This includes traffic signals which could tell a vehicle driver when the light is about to change its signal – just like walk signals now.

Of course, there are some safety concerns about the technology itself. Will drivers be more distracted with more data? Will so many false alarms go off that they get ignored (like a car alarm on the street today)? The best news might be that the total cost of the new parts necessary in every car only about $350.

Not only are the safety benefits important for everyone, but companies that move quickest to develop the technology will plainly benefit. If every single new car is required to have this technology, that is a lot of sensors, cutting edge navigation equipment, and other parts that must be designed, manufactured, sold and implemented in millions of cars sold every year in the United States, and other countries that will follow. Non-traditional auto companies like Nokia and Littlefuse are quickly looking to break into this segment. It could also have a large impact on other industries, like insurance, as an untold amount of new data is available to help refine how auto insurance policies are priced, packaged and sold.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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