Ford's new smart intersection 'talks' with carsEnlarge Photo
While the nation’s capital may be the riskiest city for driving, Sioux Falls in South Dakota rated as the safestEnlarge Photo
In all, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the federal government, 40 percent of all U.S. vehicle accidents and 20 percent of all fatalities occur at intersections.
If one or both of the vehicles had a little more information about the oncoming danger, either of the drivers could have made a slight change and been unscathed.
Such is the goal of so-called vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) systems that have been in the works for many years. The latest, which Ford Motor Co. [NYSE:F] showed earlier this week, builds on knowledge gathered through its Smart Intersection project, which used wireless communication both between vehicles and intersection-monitoring infrastructure.
Through this project, called Automatic Braking Intersection Collision Avoidance System (ABICAS), drivers get a warning if they're about to run a red light, or if they're rapidly approaching another vehicle at an intersection. Using the vehicle's on-board collision avoidance systems—and harnessing radar and camera systems for a 360-degree view—the V2V system can actually make a judgment call on whether the vehicle will make it safely through or whether there's time to safely stop.
Part of the project is being conducted in Germany, where 400 vehicles are outfitted with ways to collect and log data on driving habits and congestion, construction zones, and driving routes.
Many other automakers are working on comparable systems. Volkswagen and Audi have their Car-2-Car communications system—closely aligned with what the EU is building through its Intelligent Car Initiative—that transmits on a short-range microwave band and shares a host of vehicle details, while Toyota and Honda are working on V2V systems that alert drivers about traffic signals or approaching vehicles.
According to GM officials, even having less than ten percent of the fleet equipped with V2V transponders—a number achieved by equipping all rental cars or commercial trucks—would produce safety benefits.
The next step, Ford says, is working with government, standards organizations, and other automakers to harmonize standards and develop the most-reliable and lowest-cost solutions. But a limited deployment of these traffic-aware systems probably isn't as many years off as you'd think.