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General Motors
Develops Vehicles
with a Sixth Sense
by Nick Yost

 

The same technology that is used in OnStar can allow each vehicle to be aware of other vehicles up to a quarter of a mile away.  The federal government is encouraging vehicle manufacturers to work together to develop a common communication language so that vehicles can communicate with each other regardless of make.

General Motors engineers have developed a relatively simple and inexpensive safety technology they believe can prevent a lot of highway accidents in the future.

The system, known as Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication, enables one vehicle to alert another vehicle electronically about traffic dangers up to a quarter of a mile away.

Slow/Stopped Vehicle Advisor
The display pictured above indicates that there is a vehicle ahead on the road (depicted with the red icon) and has stopped (depicted with the yellow triangle).

A slow-moving or stopped vehicle, regardless of whether it is visible or in another lane, can warn a vehicle approaching from behind of impending danger by triggering visual, audible and seat-vibration warnings inside the approaching vehicle.

The system can even stop the vehicle automatically if it determines that a driver has not responded to the audible and visual alerts about the danger ahead. This feature, GM officials pointed out, could cut down on multi-vehicle pile-ups on crowded highways.

In addition, a vehicle can alert another vehicle when it is entering its blind spot by triggering a steady amber light in the side mirror of the vehicle being overtaken. If a driver activates his turn signal when a vehicle is in the blind spot, a flashing amber light and seat vibration will warn him of the other vehicles position.

In a demonstration to members of the automotive press, one Cadillac sedan approached another that was stopped in its lane. A dashboard screen to the right of the instrument panel first flashed a depiction of a cars tail in green, then amber, then red. When the driver did not respond, the system automatically braked the car to a stop, accompanied by warning vibrations in the driver's seat.

In the blind-spot demonstration, the seat vibrated under the drivers left or right leg, depending on which turn signal was activated.

Patrick Popp, director of the GM Electrical and Controls Integration Lab, said all thats needed for vehicles to communicate with each other are a simple antenna, a computer chip and a Global Positioning System, technology that is similar to what you would find in most ordinary cell phones.

Lane Change Advisor/Warning
An amber-colored icon in the side rear-view mirror signals that a vehicle is in the left-side blind zone.

He said the necessary equipment for inter-car communication would not be exclusive to General Motors and could be compatible with other manufacturers systems. He envisions after-market manufacturers selling systems for older cars and trucks.

He acknowledged that many of todays vehicles are equipped with multiple safety sensors which regulate adaptive cruise control, detect objects in a vehicles path and issue mid-range warnings about vehicles in blind spots.The beauty of the GM system, he said, is that it replaces all of those sensors with one sensor that can issue even more comprehensive traffic warnings.

Popp predicted that a system for a car equipped with GMs OnStar emergency communication system would cost less than $200 and said simpler, less costly aftermarket equipment could allow a vehicle to alert other vehicles of its location even if it did not have the ability to receive warnings.

Popp estimated that it may take five to seven years before enough vehicles have the equipment to make the system fully effective, but said it still could cut down on accidents long before all vehicles have it.

He said vehicle-to-vehicle communication can give a motorist a sixth sense, but emphasized that a driver will always be able to override the system and warned that it will be no substitute for a drivers vigilance.

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