Posted on Apr 04, 2012

Will there ever come a day when cars will be essentially crash-proof?

Perhaps soon, according to a recent report from CNN. Recent engineering advances enable vehicles to communicate with each other on the road, warning of impending turns and lane changes. That will allow the vehicles to steer away from danger without a human driver touching the controls.

Scott Belcher is president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. His organization is a nonprofit group that presses for improvements in safer vehicle design. 

Belcher says that over 80 percent of “non-impaired” accidents could be averted through the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems. That claim is being taken seriously by other organizations. The magazine Consumer Reports recently endorsed the concept, and the federal government has reserved a portion of the radio spectrum for future V2V systems.

The implications for vehicle safety are profound. Mr. Belcher is quoted as saying, “That’s going to be our next major safety advance—on par with airbags or safety belts.” He told CNN that a pilot program for testing the technology on 3,000 vehicles in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is in the planning stages.

As for the next stage beyond V2V, Belcher is hopeful. The fully automated driverless car will be possible soon, he says. In fact, some prototypes are already in use. But it’s not clear that humans will be willing to give up control of their cars to an automated system. “How quickly and how much we see it is really going to be dictated by society, not technology,” he told CNN.

The Appleton traffic accident attorneys of Hupy and Abraham are excited to hear about this development. We would certainly welcome any innovation to make Wisconsin streets safer. At the same time, we remain skeptical that a vehicle can be built reliably enough to be truly crash-free in all conditions.