Sometime this year, unelected bureaucrats in the bowels of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – the federal regulatory apparat that issues “rules” (that is, arbitrary orders we’re all forced to obey) governing how new cars are to be made – may issue a rule fundamentally different from all the rules that have gone before. Because this one has the potential to affect not-new cars, too.
But it’s much more – and potentially much worse – than just that.
It’s called “Vehicle to Vehicle” communications – V2V for short. It uses GPS (which almost all new cars already have) to enable Car A to communicate its location (as well as speed and direction) to Car B, so that (as an example) Car B would “know” that Car A is not stopping for that red light and thus Car B’s computer-controlled drivetrain would automatically slow/brake the vehicle to avoid a collision. (Many new/late-model cars come equipped with some form of “active” collision avoidance; that is, using radar or laser proximity sensors to detect objects in the vehicle’s path; using automated braking/steering, the vehicle acts to prevent an accident in the event the driver fails to act.)
V2V is the next technological Great Leap Forward – the critical element necessary to erect a nationwide grid of completely self-driving, autonomous cars. And also broadcasting and recording cars. V2V-enabled cars could transmit and record every detail about your trip, such as how fast you’re driving at all times (not just a “snapshot”) as well as how rapidly you accelerate and how rapidly you brake, your direction – and whether you’re in motion or stationary – to a central database. Or to whomever happens to be listening in. The potential for abuse is staggering; the diminution of our already almost nonexistent private space a certainty.
Of course, it will all be sold as a tremendous advance in (ta-dum) safety. The consequences of driver error will be greatly reduced. Lives will be saved.
The angels will sing.
But there’s a fly in the soup – from NHTSA’s perspective: Older cars do not have the technological wherewithal to “talk” to other cars, much less be part of an autonomous grid. Nor are they set up for continuous monitoring.
What will happen to them?
In this era of Submit & Obey, of the immutable and unchallengeable Safety Cult, I expect what will happen is that a few years after V2V becomes mandatory in new cars, there will be talk – followed by action – requiring that all cars be V2v enabled or be relegated to the museum.
Or the crusher.
It will be argued that cars without V2V are unsafe – because they are independent of the grid, controlled by their drivers, not by Big Brother.
It may not even be done formally, via a law or regulation. The insurance mafia could simply add a surcharge to the policies of cars without V2V. They do this already for policies issued – that is, forced upon us – for high-performance cars (and motorcycles) making them unaffordable for most drivers and riders under 35. The same justification could be used to shove pre-V2V vehicles into the proverbial dustbin of history.
Crazy talk? The insurance mafia has been aggressively pushing in-car monitoring of policyholders’ driving habits for several years now (see here). It is something made technologically cheap and easy to do via the data recorders and onboard diagnostics systems that virtually all new cars have already. The insurance mafia has not insisted – yet – that everyone’s car be monitored. In part because the concept of monitoring still bothers enough Americans to keep it at bay. But when the government mandates it, via V2V, the insurance mafia will have what it needs to force-feed monitoring by way of surcharges for those who resist by not buying a new car ready-made with V2V GPS transmitting/recording capability.
V2V is a surge – an escalation – against older cars still under the control of their owners, whose driving is not subject to real-time, 24-7 monitoring and pre-emption.