Researchers at General Motors are developing a new technology that alerts drivers of potentially dangerous driving situations in advance. The technology, known as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication system, creates a wireless safety net and gathers information from other vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure to forewarn drivers of hazardous conditions, including slowed/stalled vehicles, hard-braking drivers, slippery roads, sharp curves, and upcoming stop signs and intersections. In that regard, it has the potential to prevent crashes altogether
The system operates by using small portable devices to create a wireless safety net. GM researchers are using two mobile devices to test out the system, including a custom transponder with its own screen the size of a personal GPS unit (seen in the video below) as well as a smartphone app that can be integrated with the vehicle’s display unit. The researchers are able to connect the smartphone to audio and video display systems of a car to seamlessly integrate notifications and alerts into the vehicle.
Located in vehicles in the surrounding area, the devices can send and receive messages with other vehicles in their vicinity. For example, when a driver at the head of a string of vehicles applies the brakes, those following can get an alert. Besides being able to transfer traffic data between devices located in vehicles, the system is also able to communicate with fixed radios connected to traffic signals or placed in construction zones. Communications are accomplished by GPS and wireless Dedicated Short-Range Communications, or DSRC.
While most safety systems today make an effort to minimize a collision once it occurs, the system being developed by The General could prevent collisions not only with other vehicles, but with pedestrians as well. For instance, bicyclists and pedestrians could use an app on their smartphones that would communicate their location to the systems in drivers’ cars.
The safety system, which has been in development since 2003 at GM, is capable of being integrated even deeper into the vehicle, further expanding the functional safety of the car. When connected to the car’s computer systems, the devices can employ the car’s safety systems such as electronic stability control.
According to the NHTSA, this kind of safety system can prevent nearly 81 percent of all vehicle creases in the U.S.
The GM Authority Take
This has the potential to be very powerful. The biggest challenge, however, will be equipping all vehicles on the road with devices capable of communicating with each other, no matter make or age of the vehicle. As such, compatibility between manufacturers’ systems will be key to making such a system useful. And with the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads being 10.2 years, it’s important to find ways to retrofit older vehicles with such a system. Luckily, GM is working on solving the latter problem as well.
But these safety features can come at a price for enthusiast drivers: this seems to be the first major step towards autonomous driving… and the driving aficionado in us doesn’t like that one bit. On the other hand, the amount of people hurt or killed in accidents is simply unacceptable and must be reduced. Which pill would you take — the red or blue?