LaHood Announces Largest-Ever Road Test of Cars That Avoid Crashes

By Susan Jones | August 21, 2012 | 11:11 AM EDT

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (AP Photo)

( - Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday announced that nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and buses are trying out crash-avoidance technology on the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan. And if it works, the government may require crash-avoidance systems in future car models.

“Today is a big moment for automotive safety,” said LaHood. “This cutting-edge technology offers real promise for improving both the safety and efficiency of our roads."

The vehicles are equipped with wi-fi systems that allow them to "talk" to other vehicles or to infrastructure they encounter. The vehicles involved in this first "real world" road test will send electronic data messages, receive messages from other equipped vehicles, then translate the data into a warning to the driver during specific traffic scenarios.

The hazards to be tested include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes in another vehicle’s blind spot, or a rear collision with a vehicle stopped ahead, among others.

DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the V2V (vehicle to vehicle) safety technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of four out of five unimpaired vehicle crashes.

Aside from safety, a second goal of the technology is to "improve traffic flow," DOT said.

“Vehicle-to-vehicle communication has the potential to be the ultimate game-changer in roadway safety –- but we need to understand how to apply the technology in an effective way in the real world,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “NHTSA will use the valuable data from the ‘model deployment’ as it decides if and when these connected vehicle safety technologies should be incorporated into the fleet.”

Based on the results of the real-world road test and other research, NHTSA said it will determine by 2013 whether to proceed with additional activities involving connected vehicle technology -- "including possible rulemaking" (regulation).

The year-long road test project is being conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

Most of the 3,000 cars, trucks and buses used in the test were supplied by volunteer participants.