Cars Are About to Get Chatty

Talking cars could be the first step toward supersafe roads.

The road is the new social network — and it could save your life. Cars will soon be swapping messages at the rate of 10 per second, then bringing the driver into the conversation if they decide things are getting dangerous.

If the system works as promised, federal highway regulators believe talking cars could prevent or reduce 80 percent of crash scenarios that don't involve impaired drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Monday that it is working to allow vehicle-to-vehicle communication and hopes, as the technology advances, to "begin working on a regulatory proposal that would require V2V devices in new vehicles in a future year."

V2V technology would put all equipped cars in communication with each other, giving them real-time speed and location updates for surrounding traffic. If a wreck becomes imminent, the cars will warn their drivers, with hopes of averting a collision.

"By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go while ensuring that the U.S. remains the leader in the global automotive industry," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

NHTSA acting Administrator David Friedman hailed the decision as a milestone. "V2V crash-avoidance technology has game-changing potential to significantly reduce the number of crashes, injuries, and deaths on our nation's roads," he said. "Decades from now, it's likely we'll look back at this time period as one in which the historical arc of transportation safety considerably changed for the better, similar to the introduction of standards for seat belts, air bags, and electronic stability control technology."

The Telecommunications Industry Association and Cisco — which has worked on connected vehicles — praised the announcement. Not only will it make cars safer, they said, but it will finally begin to utilize the Intelligent Transportation Service spectrum at 5.9 GHz that was set aside for such use.

For now, talking cars will only be able to alert their drivers to danger, not take evasive action on their own. But getting that connected vehicle technology road-ready could be a huge first step toward making driverless cars more feasible.