The technology the government is contemplating contains several layers of security and privacy protection to ensure the information exchanged between vehicles doesn't identify them but merely contains basic safety data, officials said.
The safety benefits can't be achieved until there is a critical mass of cars and trucks on the road using the technology. It takes many years to turn over the nation's entire vehicle fleet, but the technology could start preventing accidents before that.
Safety benefits can be seen with as few at 7 percent to 10 percent of vehicles in a given area similarly equipped, said Paul Feenstra, a spokesman for the transportation society, an umbrella organization for the research and development of new transportation technologies.
There may be another way to speed things up, according to a presentation last year by the communications technology company Qualcomm. About 45 percent of Americans use smartphones, and that share is growing. If smartphones, which already have GPS, came equipped with a radio chip they could be used to retrofit vehicles already on the road so they could talk to each other. That would help make it possible to achieve a 50 percent market penetration in less than five years, Qualcomm estimated.
Using cellphones could also extend the safety benefits of connected-car technology to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists, Belcher said. A driver could be alerted to a possible collision with a pedestrian carrying a smartphone sending out information, even if it was too dark to see the person. More than 4,700 pedestrians were killed by vehicles and 76,000 injured in 2012.
But there are significant technical and standardization hurdles to using cellphones to support connected-car technology. Cellphone battery life, for example, a need for antennas, questions about radio frequencies and concern that cellphone GPS functions might not be as precise as those in a vehicle manufactured with special technology.
Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration —http://icsw.nhtsa.gov/safercar/ConnectedVehicles/
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.