Often abbreviated to V2V, vehicle-to-vehicle communications is a wave of the future – and starting to really get off the ground as a result of collaboration of major automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

What does vehicle-to-vehicle communication actually do? Here’s a brief overview of what V2V is and how it is intended to work.

What V2V Is

Think of V2V as a wireless network where cars send messages to each other with information relative to what each vehicle is doing. These messages include location, speed, direction of travel, loss of vehicle stability, and braking.

To accomplish its tasks, V2V technology uses dedicated short-range communications, another abbreviation here (DSRC). DSRC is a standard that is set forth by the Federal Communications Commission and others. Another analogy is that DSRC is like WiFi, something we can readily grasp. But DSRC is different from WiFi in that its range is up to 1,000 feet – or about 10 seconds at highway speeds.

How V2V Works

With vehicle-to-vehicle communications, a mesh network, every node could send, capture and retransmit various signals. What are nodes? These include cars and smart traffic signals, among others.

It only takes between five and 10 “hops” on the network to gather pertinent traffic conditions for the road ahead. This gives drivers enough time to slow down, take their foot off the gas and prepare for traffic snarl-ups or other hazardous conditions.

When V2V is first operational in mass-market vehicles, there may be driver alerts in the form of a red warning light that flashes in the car’s instrument panel. The warning light may begin with amber and change to red as conditions escalate. There is some indication that the warning light may show the direction of the impending threat.

Keep in mind that V2V development is ongoing and fluid and a lot can change between now and when the technology hits mass-market vehicles. For now, there are several thousand vehicles with V2V, either working prototype or retrofitted test cars.

On traffic signals, as well as other stationary devices, the term used is V2I. This stands for vehicle-to-infrastructure. These devices are only now being assimilated into the V2V system. There are different terms automakers use and some that are presently being considered include “Internet of things,” “Internet cars,” “talking cars” and “connected cars.”

What V2V Is Not – Yet

One thing to keep in mind is that vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems does not mean a self-driving car, at least, not yet. Some years down the road this will become an eventuality, but there is much more rigorous development and testing – not to mention implementation of appropriate laws, insurance coverage and a host of other issues to be decided – before we’ll all be sitting back enjoying our latte and reading the news or a good book on our tablet while the car is self-driving down America’s highways and byways.

What about autonomous or self-driving cars? How far along are we? Some say the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the best and most advanced example. The ‘Benz V2V car has sensors and extra radar units to let the car stop or steer safely around stalled cars or pedestrians. Should a car veer into the Benz’ lane, at a minimum, the car moves to the far side of the lane. There are also rear-facing sensors so the car immediately knows if panic braking would cause a problem with the car following.

These are outgrowths of various currently available vehicle technologies (often individual options or part of expensive packages) such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, collision warning system and more.

For now, it’s good to know that a concerted effort is underway to fully develop and rigidly test vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Whether or not we choose to buy into these kinds of systems and how our traffic system and society will adopt and adapt to them is another matter.

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