US to let everyday drivers test advanced wireless auto safety technology

Connected Vehicles use WiFi, dedicated short-range communications to warn drivers of hazards

connected vehicles
Can new wireless auto safety systems work in the real world and how will drivers respond? That's what the US Department of Transportation hopes to find out in the next few months as it lets hundreds of drivers in six communities across the country test some of the latest communication devices in controlled situations.

The DOT's Connected Vehicles program includes cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles fitted with technology that lets them communicate with each other and with roadway infrastructure like traffic lights, dangerous road segments, and railroad crossings to avoid accidents, be alerted for roadway problems and other hazards.

More on car technology: Seven advanced car technologies the government wants now 

With such smart cars, drivers could be alerted if their vehicle is on path to collide with another vehicle at an intersection, when a vehicle ahead stops or slows suddenly or when a traffic pattern changes on a busy highway. The systems also could warn drivers if there is a risk of collision when changing lanes, approaching a stationary or parked vehicle, or if another driver loses control, according to the Ford website. 

Ford has built some demonstration smart cars that can talk wirelessly with one another using advanced Wi-Fi signals, or dedicated short-range communications, on a secured channel allocated by the Federal Communications Commission. Unlike radar-based safety features, which identify hazards within a direct line of sight, the Wi-Fi-based radio system allows full-range, 360-degree detection of potentially dangerous situations, such as when a driver's vision is obstructed.

The DOT will start the testing program in August in Brooklyn, MI, then go to Minneapolis in September, Orlando in October, Blacksburg, VA, in November, Dallas in December, and San Francisco in January 2012.   In each community, about 100 local drivers will be recruited to test 24 cars equipped with Dedicated Short Range Communications wireless safety technology in controlled locations like restricted access racetracks.  "Because the clinics will be taking place in urban, suburban, and rural communities across the U.S., we'll get a chance to see a how a healthy cross-section of drivers take to the new technology," the DOT stated.

"A NHTSA report found that connected vehicle technology has the potential to address 81% of all unimpaired driver related crashes, but we must take a serious look at how this technology will work in the real world to create a safer transportation system,"  said Peter Appel,  administrator of Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) in a statement. RITA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have partnered with the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP) to lead the six driver clinics.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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