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Teaching cars and trucks how to talk to one another

In the future vehicles will be able to warn each other to avoid traffic jams.
In the future vehicles will be able to warn each other to avoid traffic jams.Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

The Obama administration has called for the auto industry to develop new technology that would enable motor vehicles to “talk” to each other on the road in order to prevent collisions by transmitting their positions, heading, speed and other data via radio signals in a continuous basis. This would also allow cars or trucks to detect when another vehicle equipped with the same technology makes a sudden stop within 300 feet (even before their rear lights flash), as well as when they run a red light, etc.

According to as report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, such devices “could save more than 1,000 lives a year, and help prevent as many as 592,000 left hand crashes at intersections throughout the country.” In addition, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called this kind of communication between cars and trucks the “next great advance in protecting drivers and passengers alike.”

Another proposal is to develop a system in which traffic lights could also “talk” to motor vehicles in order to warn them about road hazards as well as traffic jams so drivers would be able to find alternate routes in time.
It should be noted, that this new technology is different from any of the automated safety features currently being built in some high-end cars (such as radar and other sensors), as well as in newly designed “self-driving” cars, although government officials as well as automotive manufacturer technicians do see them as being “compatible” with each other as they become more prevalent in the years to come.

Car companies currently investing in vehicle to vehicle communication systems include, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Daimler Chrysler, Siemens, Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Mark IV, while several major universities such as MIT, UCLA, Stanford and Texas A & M are working to develop "ad hoc networks" for vehicles. In fact, the University of California at Berkeley is now participating in a joint research program with California Paetners for Advanced Transit and Highways (PATH) along these lines.