2013
07.29

Make no mistake the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is very clear when it declares that portable electronic devices that do not directly support the task of driving simply have “no place” in planes, trains, or automobiles. And it has the data to support its claims.

However, distraction comes in many forms. There are also many facts and figures that contribute to the thousands of accidents that occur on our roadways, in our skies, and on our commuter system every year. But it’s clear that when we sit in our vehicles our hands need to be on the wheel and our attention needs to be on the road ahead. When these two factors are not at 100%, distraction increases and the likelihood of an accident is compounded.

Toss in a portable device and NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman’s point is only reinforced and proves it has some serious merit. Most drivers cannot show restraint. And these same motorists are putting themselves and everyone else on the road at risk when they pick up their portable device and look at it even for just a second or two. It only takes a second to glance down at a smartphone or tablet to tragically change a life forever. Toss in being tired or taking medication and some of the ingredients to make an accident happen.

Those are just some of the findings after months of investigation when the NTSB met last week issuing some recommendations to determine the probable cause of the February 2012 fatal school bus accidents in Chesterfield, N.J., and Port St. Lucie, Fla., and what could be done to prevent future accidents.

As a result of its research, the group cited connected vehicle technology and how it might have helped to prevent one or even both of these tragic events. The NTSB found that some type of connected vehicle system could have provided an active warning to the school bus driver. The driver could have been alerted to the approaching truck as he entered the intersection.

I applaud the NTSB and its partners for raising more awareness and appreciation at connected technology and how it can serve as a tool to help for the future. Despite the negative publicity that technology seems to have achieved as a result of distracting drivers, I’m thrilled to see the NTSB taking a look at how connected technology can serve the greater good.

The NTSB made a recommendation to the NTHSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin.) regarding connected vehicle technology. It said the organization should develop minimum performance standards for connected vehicle technology for all highway vehicles. Additionally, the NTSB recommended that once minimum performance standards for connected vehicle technology are developed, it should require this technology to be installed on all newly manufactured highway vehicles.

Just imagine the safety implications if the NTSB encourages situational awareness to reduce or eliminate crashes through V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) and V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) to increase driver awareness and warnings and infrastructure controls.

As it stands, vehicles equipped with the connected technology will wirelessly communicate over a network exchanging information on location, direction, and even speed. The goal here is that the vehicle’s computer will analyze all the surrounding information alerting the driver of any hazards, long before the driver can see the other vehicle. Thus, what we are talking about is crash scenarios with unimpaired drivers preventing thousands of automobile crashes with buses, motorcoachs, and trains.

Currently the technology has been proven to be effective up to a range of about 1,000 feet. The NHTSA has been also road-testing this V2V and V2I in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the past year. NHTSA officials have said they hope to make a decision on whether to proceed to setting standards or whether to continue their research by the end of this year. Let’s hope this is true and it all can be wrapped up in a timely fashion. The number of fatalities from distraction in this country is an epidemic after all.

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