To make all that happen, suppliers would have to combine the DSRC capabilities with onboard GPS (global positioning systems). That way, vehicles would know where they are. They'd know the other vehicles around them. They'd know if they should stay in their lanes or slow down. And by talking to other vehicles and to municipalities, they'd know if a street is slippery or if there's construction a few miles ahead.
For now, all of this still depends on alert drivers. Vehicles would give notice to drivers in a variety of ways, including lights on the windshield or atop the dashboard. Eventually, the vehicles might start making decisions themselves, overriding drivers and commandeering the brakes or steering wheel when necessary. However, that is not part of the near-term view of the technology.
Consumer Reports, which tested eight DSRC-equipped vehicles from eight different manufacturers, agreed with the NHTSA that there was real value in the technology.
"It could definitely save lives," Barth told us. "There were scenarios where you'd be testing the vehicle and you'd say, 'Gee, that nearly happened to me the other day.'"
Not everyone agrees with this vision of the future. When we wrote about it in November, many readers were unimpressed. JimZ asked in a comment, "Has anyone considered what will happen if drivers become even less attentive when they believe that V2V is assuming responsibility for driving their vehicle?" And jimwilliams57 said, "I'll continue to use the old fashioned method of avoiding accidents: stay awake; stay alert and stay aware."
Some automakers are also concerned about extra costs, especially given the industry's recent economic troubles. "Understanding what the transceiver might cost, it begins to look like a pretty enormous undertaking," an industry executive told us in 2008. "It always leads back to the question: 'How does this get paid for?' Automakers can't take a $100 hit per car."
But as a possible mandate looms on the horizon in the next few years, Consumer Reports' support may be a sign that V2V is gaining ground.
"NHTSA's figures indicate that about 80 percent of lives that are lost could be saved with this technology," Barth said. "That's really a staggering number."