How About a Little Air Bag Chat? Ford Seeks to Make Cars That Talk to Each Other

2/11/11Follow @xconomy

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onboard cameras, GPS, and radar.

In 2002, the Federal Communications Commission dedicated wireless spectrum (75 MHz, 5.9 GHz) to vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-road communications.

Next year, Ford will field test eight different kinds of Wi-Fi-enabled smart cars. Through a series of LED lights, beeps, and icons, the system will warn drivers if another car has entered their blind spot or if they are driving too close to another vehicle. By calculating the speed and direction of two cars, the system could alert the drivers of a potential crash at an intersection.

The relatively low cost of Wi-FI makes smart cars a reality and not a pipe dream, Shulman says. While all cars will eventually carry the system, automakers can compete on how to present the information to the driver and add extra features like reserving a parking spot on the go.

Eventually, the technology could lead to cars that drive themselves, Shulman says. Google is already testing such a car.

Nevertheless, significant challenges lie ahead. Car makers need to develop technical standards that can securely and accurately transmit information between different types of vehicles. Also, the current wireless range for smart cars is just 300 meters. During traffic jams, the information transmitted by smart cars might clog up the system.

Shulman also thinks some consumers will raise concerns over privacy.

With its auto expertise and already considerable investment into intelligent vehicles, Michigan could reap the benefits of such technology, experts say.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is exploring the idea of creating an incubator for companies to develop IntelliDrive technologies.

MDOT is also partnering with the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Michigan Technological University to offer research grants that encourage the creation of remote sensors that can monitor and collect information on infrastructure like bridges. Stress-measuring sensors and wireless broadband networks have already been tested on the Mackinac Bridge and the Cut River Bridge in the Upper Peninsula.

“As the home of the nation’s automotive industry, Michigan is a logical choice to take on the leadership role…and has much to gain from it,” the CAR report said.

“In this way, the state can make its own vision of IntelliDrive become a reality, instead of letting others define it,” the report said. “Leadership also promises economic development benefits, because it will bring jobs and other investment into the state as the IntelliDrive industry takes root and grows in Michigan.”


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