New car technology could prevent accidents

January 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Driving could soon be much safer with technology to allow cars to talk to each other to prevent accidents.

Imagine you were driving and up ahead there's a car stopped in the middle of the road. You can't see it, but your car can warn you in time to stop safely with a technology that could soon be standard on all new cars.

"It's a technology in which vehicles speak to each other about location, speed, direction and so forth so that they can avoid each other quite readily to avoid collisions," National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesperson Daniel Smith said.

Using short-range radio waves like Wi-Fi, cars anonymously broadcast their GPS position to each other over a range of a few hundred yards. On-board computers analyze when two cars might be on a collision course, and alert the drivers.

There are LEDs on the mirrors and the front windshield and the seats even vibrate.

"There's four motors in the seat and then there's six motors in the back, and then we use either the left or right motors depending on where the threat is," one of the researchers said.

Engineers are in Alameda because they're doing the last in a series of tests with ordinary drivers to see how folks like you and me respond to the new high tech warning system.

"To figure out what works for them, what might not work as well," Smith said.

A research team from the federal government and the eight biggest auto makers put together real world scenarios that are rare but often deadly.

"About a quarter of the fatalities happen at intersections -- it's a pretty staggering number," the researcher said.

In one simulation, one driver's about to run a stop sign, so the system warns other drivers to hit the brake. It even works around blind corners.

Researchers say it's making believers out of their test subjects.

"Whether they're skeptical or enthusiastic when they come out here, they're pretty enthusiastic by the time they leave," Smith said.

If every car came with it, they claim the technology could prevent 80 percent of the scenarios that lead to crashes.