Feds to Mandate Smart Car Technology

safer_carsby James A. Bacon

The Obama administration has signaled its intention to require automobile manufacturers to install technology in cars that would allow them to communicate position, direction and speed to one another. The sensors would alert drivers to impending collisions and, in some systems, would automatically brake to avoid an accident.

I’m not a fan of government mandates — the marketplace would implement this technology on its own — but as far as mandates go, this one at least makes sense. The cost-benefit ratio is very favorable. Reportedly, the technology would cost an estimated $100 to $200 per car. Federal highway safety officials estimate that the technology could prevent up to 80% of accidents not involving drunken drivers or mechanical failure. Eventually, when enough of the new cars are on the road, the savings in automobile insurance premiums should pay for the cost of the technology many times over.

According to yesterday’s Associated Press article, the safety benefits won’t materialize until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks using the technology, and nobody knows that that level is. It will take several years before the regulations are implemented, and many years more before the introduction of new cars into the nation’s automobile fleet allows that critical mass to be reached. However, it’s safe to say that a day will come when all cars on the road have the safety technology.

The article also suggests that it may be possible for cars to communicate with pedestrians and bicyclists using smart phones. More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed by vehicles and 76,000 injured in 2012.

Bacon’s bottom line: Smart cars — cars that communicate with each other, and with highways and traffic lights — represent a big step in the evolution toward driverless cars. The technology is moving with great speed, and public perceptions are lagging far behind. In this instance, federal regulators are actually ahead of the public and they appear to be acting in a positive, forward-looking manner. (To anticipate your next question, no, no one has kidnapped Jim Bacon and replaced him with a liberal-progressive clone.)

We are in the early stages of the most far-teaching transformation in surface transportation technology since the invention of the automobile. Really, we’re talking Automobile 2.0. Driverless cars will re-write the rules for transportation in America, which means it will transform the economic logic of urban design as well. Insofar as driverless cars enable long-distance commutes, they likely will foster the scatteration of population and development. But insofar as driverless technology makes it possible to provide inexpensive taxicab-like services — imagine the convenience of taxicabs without the expense of paying drivers — they could make it easier to adopt a car-free lifestyle. Smart Growthers need to begin imagining the automotive future in store and how it will affect the urban form.

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6 responses to “Feds to Mandate Smart Car Technology”

  1. I’m predicting that the average person does not really understand what the implications of smart car communication are but once they do – all hell will break loose.. especially from the “Don’t Tread on Me” types but here’s a hint from the headlines:

    ” EU group mulls ‘remote car-stopping device’ for police”

    so think about this. what would “tell” your car to brake and/or stop?

    how about a police car sending such a communication to your “smart car” as if another car was telling your car to “stop”?

    once your car “communicates” and can then receive “commands”.. does anyone think that they’ll “only” other other cars using only traffic conditions to “communicate”?

    ” EU police want ‘remote kill switch’ on every car ”


    ok… so someone tell me that I’m full of crap…

    1. billsblots Avatar

      And don’t call me Shirley.

  2. That falls right in line with that VMT fee pdf file I posted the other day. In that report the authors said that older vehicles would be mandated to have the devices installed. The internet of things is going to be overrun by cockroaches.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    Americans lost their privacy years ago.

    Credit cards are now used for even the smallest purchases. Airlines are the first (but will not be the last) to refuse to take cash for some items. Everything you buy with a credit card tracks you.

    Your cell phone reports its location. Your movements are tracked through that device.

    The NSA records calls, text messages, e-mails and probably this comment. You are tracked online.

    Video cameras are pervasive and facial recognition software is getting quite capable. You are tracked when you walk down the street.

    In Maryland (and other states) you are fingerprinted when you buy a handgun. For handgun owners you are trackable every time you touch something.

    Every time you use EX Pass to go through a toll both you are tracked. You are probably tracked even if you pay cash through license plate imaging – although I don’t know that for sure.

    You are tracked every time you park at an airport parking lot.

    You are often tracked just by parking in any parking lot. Police cars with side mounted cameras record license plates of parked cars and “dip” a database to determine who owns the car (and whether or not it is stolen). http://rt.com/usa/aclu-license-plate-surveillance-216/

    Jim Bacon’s house has an attached white garage with black shutters. And no – I have never been there.

    There is no privacy outside your home for Americans. It’s debatable how much privacy there is inside your home.

    Anti-collision detectors? Just another drop in the ocean of electronic surveillance.

  4. all of the above is true. the question is do you want it done in real time – with precision?

    It’s one thing to know you charged something a day ago and that you appeared in a security camera video a few hours ago. The question is do you want the police to know that you are right here in front of them – right now – AND they can essentially disable your car before they flip on one blue flashing light?

    do you want the police to be able to stop your car whenever they want even if they are not even there at the time they stop it?

    to mention nothing about if your car suddenly stops on a busy interstate and you have no idea why and scramble to get your car onto the shoulder or say you are so clueless that you do nothing but just allow the car to stop in the middle of everything?

    I think that Americans will find this as bad or worse than the NSA capturing their cell phone activity.

    Given the current level of conspiracy theories rampant on the right these days – I can just see the “and now Obama is tracking you” narratives..

    in some respects, it will be a relief to see Obama go just to see how the right continues their narratives for the next POTUS and Gawd Forbid he be another Bush/Romney type.. they’ll go ape-crap of the essence of RINO!

    I don’t think Americans are going to go for “connected” cars once they realize it allows Uncle Same/Big Govt/ and Obama to ‘track them” – no way!

  5. and apparently – already here:

    Your car’s computer system can be hacked with off-the-shelf parts


    You probably don’t spend much time thinking about the computer in your car, but a pair of Spanish security researchers sure does. In preparation for next month’s Black Hat Asia security conference in Singapore, Javier Vazquez-Vidal and Alberto Garcia Illera have assembled a small electronic device that can leave a vehicle’s computer system open to attack. “It can take five minutes or less to hook up and then walk away,” Vidal says. It can also be built from off-the-shelf components for less than $20.

    What the gizmo can actually do depends on the car. The team says that they’ve wired the CAN Hacking Tool (named for the Controller Area Network bus it exploits) into four vehicles,

    and have used it to wirelessly

    manipulate lights, set off alarms, control power windows and even activate the vehicle’s brakes. By the time the conference starts, they hope to outfit the prototype with a GSM radio, making it possible to control a vehicle’s systems from virtually anywhere. Still, Vidal says they don’t want to aid any nefarious activities, so the hacking tool’s source code is going to remain private for now — but they do hope their demonstration at Black Hat Asia will get the attention of automakers. “A car is a mini network,” Illera said. “And right now there’s no security implemented.


    okay.. so how many folks think the NSA and affiliated are not already doing this?

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