Slashing regulations literally more important than saving American lives to Donald Trump
Vehicle-to-vehicle car-talking safety technology hits skids
The Trump Administration has literally put a reduction in regulations over the lives of Americans with a decision to drop a new car-to-car communication protocol.
Last year, the federal government proposed that all new cars and trucks should be required to include new vehicle-to-vehicle communications (V2V) as a way to cut down on traffic deaths.
Thanks to advances in technology, it is now possible for cars to wirelessly share information with each other about their speed and direction incredibly quickly, and have other vehicles react in real time. So, for example, if a driver suddenly slams on the brakes, nearby cars would be aware of it and can react faster that their human drivers. The technology could also alert people and their rides to vehicles that they may not be able to see until too late.
The US Department of Transportation estimated that the tech – which has been developed over a decade at the cost of countless dollars – could prevent or reduce the impact of up to 80 per cent of collisions. And it foresaw the technology being used to time traffic lights, greatly increasing the efficiency of congested roads and reducing traffic jams.
All of which sounded so wonderful that the Obama Administration proposed making V2V compulsory as a way of getting it in to cars and moving the country's roads toward a smarter, more connected future. Half of all new cars would be required to have V2V tech within two years, and all vehicles within four years.
Except, the Trump Administration – which is bitterly shoveling Obama-era measures into the furnace – has now changed the government's tack on the issue, and quietly dropped a plan to issue a final ruling on the topic, effectively needlessly putting people's lives at risk.
Despite huge advances in safety, last year saw 37,461 deaths on US roads. Not only that but after 30 years of slowly declining road deaths (the worst ever was 1972 when 54,589 people died on US roads), that figure has started to increase in recent years.
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So why has the Trump Administration decided to back track? Is it an ideological hatred of any federally imposed rules at all? Is it another sign of President Trump's weird drive to unravel everything done by his predecessor? No, it appears as though it is good old-fashioned corporate greed.
The V2V proposal was rigorously opposed by phone and cable companies. Why? Because it uses a spectrum band that those companies would like. The 5.9GHz band was set aside some time ago for transportation tech. But that spectrum is worth lots of money to organizations that are fighting to find space in the increasingly mobile world – as made clear by the billions paid to America's communications watchdog, the FCC, in recent years in spectrum auctions.
Lobbyists have been flooding Washington DC with all sorts of reasonable arguments such as: why don't we wait until 5G technology is in place? Is the current V2V spec really the best way to increase safety? Aren't car manufacturers asking for too much bandwidth? Are they essentially getting a freebie? And so on.
The short version: cable and mobile companies have a lot of money and they want the bandwidth. They also have a lot of lobbyists and cut a lot of checks.
So, which comes first: the lives of American citizens or reelection dollars? Vroom! Vroom! Race you to the bank. ®