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Car Talk – The Future of Driving Safety

Editor’s note. This is the first in a series from Ford that will talk about older drivers, technology and the future of transportation. Today’s post is by Mike Shulman, Technical Leader for Ford Active Safety Research.

Like many fans of the NPR program Car Talk, I’ll miss the entertaining banter of brothers Ray and Tom Magliozzi (otherwise known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers). No one can turn a car calamity into comic relief quite like they can!

The idea of “car talk” is actually one auto companies are focusing on a lot these days – although not the kind made famous by the Tappet Brothers.  Instead, it involves cars sharing information with other cars and transportation infrastructure for the purpose of enhancing vehicle safety.

Related: AARP Driver Safety Program

This technology – known as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications – is viewed as one of the next big breakthroughs in automotive safety and is expected to have profound benefits for driver awareness and crash prevention.

How exactly does it work?  I like to think of V2V technology as a 360-degree field of safety that identifies hazards you don’t even see – such as cars approaching a blind intersection or drivers several cars ahead suddenly slamming on the brakes.  This happens through the constant transmission from each vehicle of their position, speed and predicted path of travel over a dedicated secure network. The driver is alerted if the vehicle detects a potential crash hazard.

In addition to the significant safety benefits, there are potential mobility and environmental advantages. For example, we’re studying how V2V could help manage traffic congestion by redirecting cars to less crowded routes. A V2V network could also be used to identify open parking spots and lead drivers directly to them.

Ultimately, in order to work, V2V needs to be on all cars – no matter what the make or model. That’s why auto companies are working closely with one another and with the federal government to develop standard technology and test operations and working towards making V2V available on all cars.

As part of that process, this group is currently collaborating to test 3,000 V2V-equipped vehicles on the streets of Ann Arbor, Mich., with the goal of developing standards that could bring this technology to cars in the next  five to 10 years.

During my 35+ years at Ford, we’ve seen significant advances in auto safety from improved airbags to active systems that help alert drivers to hazards on the road.  The idea of talking cars may sound like something out of the Jetsons, but V2V truly is a giant leap in automotive safety innovation. Now that’s something to talk about!

See how V2V works:

Photo by espos via CreativeCommons.org