The Case for Connectivity: Why CV should come before AV

Autonomous Vehicles are Great! But AVs are going to take a while to get here and filter throughout society.

But while we wait for our autonomous vehicles to get here, we have a problem: congestion is still bad and, more importantly, people are still dying on our roadway (each year, over 30,000 Americans die in car accidents).  That’s why there is something else we should be focusing on right now: connectivity.

Once we know how Vehicle to Vehicle (“V2V”) connectivity works. We can start looking at why we need to focus on connectivity now – and it really centers around safety,  here look at this graphic from NHTSA:

Wait, on second thought, don’t look at that, let me just summarize for you:

  • Through use of just V2V to warn drivers, NHTSA studies indicate that up to 79% of unimpaired crashes could be avoided.
  • If you add in infrastructure (communication on poles on the side of the road), you can get that number up to 81%

Quick note: “unimpaired” here means crashes where the driver is sober and alert, connectivity probably isnt going to stop drunk drivers, but still.

If all cars and infrastructure talk to each other we can reduce up to 81% of unimpaired crashes.

So how come we haven’t done this already?

Well the technology has taken a long time to develop, but, as of writing this, I have personally spoken with 3 vendors who tell me that they have the connectivity units needed to make V2V happen.  And this doesn’t mean just in new cars.  These units are designed to be placed in existing vehicles to provide warnings to drivers.  Can you image something like this in your current car:

or, what about something like this: a replacement sharkfin antenna that sends signals to an android unit mounted on the dashboard

Some of this equipment is already being tested around the United States.  I am hopeful that I will also be able to get my hands on some of this equipment as part of my day job.  Because lets do some quick back of the envelope calculations:

In Austin, there were 79 fatalities on the roadways in 2016.  There are now about a million people that live in the city and each fatality costs about a million dollars.  Now, with these conservative estimates, lets do some conservative calculations:  Austin spent somewhere around $79 million on fatalities last year.  Assuming everyone in Austin has a car, that’s a million cars we wold have to retrofit.  Simple math: if each V2V retrofit unit cost $79, then in one year this plan would pay for itself.  

I will admit, I am not certain what the cost of these units will be, but those numbers above are extremely conservative. They include the significant population of people (kids, transit users, etc.) that dont have a car.  And, more importantly, they don’t consider the 14,000 other, non-fatal, wrecks that occurred in Austin in 2016. 

So, stay tuned, I hope to flesh this out a bit more – lets see if we cant use connectivity to save lives sooner.

until next time,

James