Today, automakers invest a significant amount of research and development resources in active collision avoidance features such as active cruise control and automatic braking systems that attempt to prevent accidents rather than react to them with passive safety features (airbags, crumple zones, seat belts, etc). But General Motors researchers are working on an entirely new approach to assist drivers in avoiding collisions, especially those with pedestrians, bicyclists, and other users of the road. The new effort relies on Wi-Fi Direct — a peer-to-peer wireless standard that allows devices like smartphones to communicate directly with each other.
Wi-Fi Direct differs from traditional Wi-Fi by bypassing a shared access point like a cell phone tower or a Wi-Fi router. What GM researchers have discovered is that Wi-Fi Direct can be integrated with sensors-based object detection and driver alert systems in the vehicle that are already available on production cars. In effect, a vehicle equipped with a Wi-Fi Direct system would detect Wi-Fi Direct-equipped devices on the road, and would react accordingly to items like pedestrians, bicyclists, congested streets, poor visibility conditions before the driver potentially notices them.
General Motors is looking to develop a complementary app for Wi-Fi Direct-capable smartphones that can be downloaded by road users such as bike messengers and construction workers, helping Wi-Fi Direct-equipped vehicles identify them. The goal is to provide advanced warning signs about hazards (slow/stalled vehicles, slippery roads, intersections/stop signs) and road users. The fact that an intermediate connection step (cell phone tower or a router) can be bypassed allows Wi-Fi Direct to connect in as quickly as a second, rather than the typical 7-8 seconds it takes to acquire location information and connect. In addition, Wi-Fi Direct devices can reach each other at a maximum of 656 feet (more than 2 footballs fields) and can be used to securely transfer files between MP3/cell phones/home computers and infotainment or navigations systems with Wi-Fi direct vehicle.
The GM Authority Take
This isn’t ready for market deployment just yet, but it doesn’t take much to see how — within the next several decades — vehicles can eventually become highly aware of and connected to their surroundings. Of course, items such as industry standards and basic smartphone/device integration will need to be decided, but that’s a small barrier to what can otherwise be a suite of technologies that eliminates accidents.Google+