How to Make Cars Cooperate

"Without federal help, however, the upfront cost of connected infrastructure can be prohibitive for small towns and cities. Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina and an affiliate scholar at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society, recently challenged a group of students to come up with ways to secure public funding for vehicle-to-infrastructure technology that would enable more governments to afford it. One idea was to use the technology at intersections to collect traffic data and sell it to the developers of automated systems to improve their algorithms; another was to use the dedicated bandwidth in cars to create a meshlike internet network for rural areas, eliminating the need to put down expensive fiber cable.

Perhaps the most provocative idea, Smith told me, was a “crash bounty.” He explained: “We’ve posited that V2I can improve safety — what if you could come up with a scheme for monetizing that? If you could prove you had prevented a crash, you could bill the people who otherwise would have been injured or killed: ‘Good news, we’re 80 percent sure that we saved you from an injury that would have cost you tens of thousands of dollars, so, insurance company, pay up $40,000 and be happy with that.’ ”"