Washington DC - Toyota plans to start selling cars in the United States that can talk to each other using short-range wireless technology in 2021, potentially preventing thousands of accidents annually.

The company is aiming to adopt the dedicated short-range communications systems in the United States across most of its line-up by the mid-2020s, it said on Monday, in the hope that by announcing its plans, other automakers will follow suit.

The US Transportation Department must decide whether to adopt a pending proposal that would require all future vehicles to have this advanced technology. In December 2016 the Obama administration proposed making it a requrement that auto makes adopt the technology and ensure all vehicles "speak the same language through a standard technology", giving them at least four years to comply.

In 1999 car companies were granted a block of wavelengths in the 5.9 GHz band for "vehicle-to-vehicle" and "vehicle to infrastructure" communications and have studied the technology for more than a decade, but it has gone largely unused. Some in Congress and at the Federal Communications Commission think it should be opened to other uses.

'Talking' vehicles

In 2017 General Motors Co began offering vehicle-to-vehicle technologies on its Cadillac CTS model, but it is currently the only commercially available vehicle with the system.

'Talking' vehicles, which have been tested in pilot projects and by US carmakers for more than a decade, use dedicated short-range communications to transmit data up to 300 metres, including location, direction and speed. The data is broadcast up to 10 times a second to nearby vehicles, which can identify risks and provide warnings to avoid imminent crashes, especially at intersections.

Toyota has installed the technology in more than 100 000 vehicles in Japan since 2015.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in 2017 the regulation could eventually cost $135-$300 (R1600-R3600) per new vehicle, or up to $5 billion (R60 billion) annually but could prevent up to 600 000 crashes and reduce costs by $71 billion (R850 billion) annually when fully deployed.