Cars Talk to Prevent Road Mishaps
Rajesh is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Technology is fast-moving and paving its way across industries. The continuous evolution and upscale of techniques and methodologies in the auto industry is changing the face of the product offerings and enhancing the level of safety, while one experiences a joyful tension free drive.
However, unless you mandate the technology, you aren’t adding safety nor benefiting lives. As many as 32,310 lives were lost in road mishaps in 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports. Is life so discounted? The answer is on the way…
Late in the summer, the government is scheduled to conduct an experiment to test a wireless technology that enables communication between vehicles to avoid crashes. The experiment, to be performed in Michigan, involves close to 3,000 vehicles including cars, trucks and buses with equipped wireless communication system. These vehicles will be driven by voluntary drivers. The wireless technology, called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, is an advanced version that can take control of a car and apply brakes in case the driver reacts late to a warning.
A safety demonstration was shown at the recent transportation conference taking us forward into the future of auto safety.
What is the technology?
Hey! Don’t get muddled… The car won’t be actually talking; technology will do the job of exchanging information related to the location, direction and speed of the vehicles around. The swapping of information will take place every ten seconds, informing about vehicles and the looming danger in the range of 1,000 feet. The information will be then analyzed by a computer, which will forward warning signals of the possible peril to the drivers. But a lot of it rests on how the drivers react to the signal. This is exactly what needs to be tested in the Michigan experiment.
Warnings will also be given to the drivers of V2V cars in the form of red lights or other stop signs to attract attention towards the approaching traffic. In addition, it will also help in knowing when to take a safe turn. In fact, the advanced version of the models will also have a system of slamming the brakes, if by any chance the driver misses it or responds late.
NHTSA has been working on this safety technology for the past 10 years and has worked in close coordination with 8 big names: General Motors (NYSE: GM), Ford (NYSE: F), Honda (NYSE: HMC), Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Hyundai-Kia, Nissan and Toyota Motors (NYSE: TM).
When will the technology come to the masses?
This is a difficult question to answer. In fact V2V is already available. However, its benefit shall be felt only when the technology is spread to the entire population of cars. It may take as much as 10 more years for the government to set standards for the automakers, and the automakers to widely incorporate the technology in new cars. In fact spreading the new technology to a whole mass of cars could take about 30 years.
One thing that could work wonders and accelerate the process is consumer demand for this safety technology, Rob Strassburger, Vice President for Safety of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, believes.
In fact some of the safety technologies are already added in high end models. One of them is the land departure system which cautions the driver in case the car unknowingly wanders from the lane. Some of them have the automatic option of steering the car back. Another safety technology is the blind spot systems which warns drivers if there is a vehicle in the adjoining lanes, with the option of steering away to keep safe distance. Adaptive cruise control is another technology which adjusts the speed of the vehicle such that it maintains safe distance from the vehicle in the same lane. Parking sensors and rear-mounted cameras ease the process of car parking.
Food for thought – ‘the driverless car’
Technology has mechanized driving to such an extent that in times to come, a car may need a driver just for rule sake. Once the new V2V technology is widespread, it will revolutionize the entire experience of driving. The V2V technology clubbed with the above mentioned technologies can almost automatically run a car. Rightly put forward by Strassburger: “The long-term trajectory for these technologies is the vehicle that drives itself — the driverless car.”
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