Talking Cars to Become Reality: Report

How about this scenario: you’re driving down a busy city street in rush hour. As you near a green light in a sea of traffic, your car suddenly comes to a halt. Seconds later, a swerving (and perhaps drunk) driver careens through the intersection and a red light. Your car has just saved your skin.

Sound like science-fiction? It may soon be a reality. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland, university researchers, automotive companies, and government bodies are all working together right now to accelerate the introduction of vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems.

Speaking before the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit last week, Strickland said he believed that such platforms could dramatically reduce the number of crashes on American roads. According to Strickland, it could prevent four in five accidents from ever occurring.

Strickland pointed to two emerging technologies as the key to cutting down highway accidents and saving lives: lane-departure and crash-warning systems. Together, they could help cars alert one another when a collision appears imminent. It’s unclear right now if drivers would simply receive a loud warning when such a threat was detected or if the cars themselves would briefly take over the driving experience, steering away from a potential accident.

Strickland says that answering that question comprises one of the key problems for researchers involved in advancing car-to-car communications.

Regardless of the specifics, such systems will make the roads safer, Strickland says. “Our research shows that these technologies could help prevent a majority of the collisions that typically occur in the real world, such as rear-end collisions, intersection crashes, or collisions while switching lanes.”

Several major automakers are behind the project. According to Toyota representative Brian Lyons, “Vehicle-to-vehicle technology is a natural evolution of vehicle safety. When you consider all the advancements in vehicle safety: passage safety (seat belts and airbags)-active safety (electronic stability control)-collision avoidance (blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control), the possibilities of Vehicle-to-X communication are limitless.”

For now, testing continues. If it proceeds well, it’s possible the systems described by Strickland could be found in new cars within the next three years.

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