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Feds Testing Out Cars That Talk To Each Other In Michigan

Federal regulators recently announced a yearlong project, which will determine the effectiveness of wireless communication between cars in improving safety on highways and roads.

Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation announced the program, saying that 3,000 Ann Arbor cars, trucks and buses will be equipped with data recorders and what is basically a Wi-Fi technology allowing them to transmit important information about local hazardous conditions and accidents. The equipment to make these systems work is stored in the trunk of the vehicle.

The connected vehicles will warn drivers of sudden changes in the surrounding traffic pattern as well as any potential collisions. The cars will use data from other cars that have been equipped with this technology as well as special roadside devices.

Secretary LaHood said the study, which cost $25 million would provide plenty of useful data and would help the government decide if such technology should be required in future vehicles.

At a press conference at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, where the wireless devices will be installed and the data will be collected, Secretary LaHood said, “Cars talking to each other is the future of motor safety.”

Safety regulators claim that vehicle-to-vehicle communication could possibly help drivers avoid, or at least reduce the severity of 80 percent of vehicle crashes that involve unimpaired drivers. According to LaHood, at this point there is no plan to require this type of technology in future cars, a decision will be made after the data is examined.

Safety experts feel this is the next step in an effort by the auto industry to understand how connected vehicles can improve traffic flow and safety.

A total of eight automakers are providing vehicles for the study which will include commercial trucks as well as buses. These companies will also offer engineering assistance to the study. Many of the latest models being put into the marketplace from these carmakers already incorporate much of the technology.  Traffic assist, lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control are just a few examples.

The study takes it to the next level by allowing connected vehicles to share safety information with each other. The systems give driver’s audio and visual warnings about traffic changes being experienced by other connected vehicles. Onboard cameras will also record how the drivers are responding to traffic changes and accidents.

Safety advocates expressed concerned that drivers may rely on the systems too much and become less cautious when driving. Transportation experts and politicians are hoping that this kind of smart technology will help improve traffic and save money by doing more with existing infrastructure.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz are the automakers that are participating in the study.  Currently about 500 vehicles are involved in the study, which is in the trial phase. As the study continues it will expand to about 2,800 volunteers.

The government is conducting a study about the effectiveness of car-to-car communication to improve safety on the highways and roads. At its peak about 3,000 cars will participate in the Ann Arbor area.