US wants cars to find each other through airwaves and warn drivers

The Department of Transportation plans to propose a mandatory car-to-car wireless system

The U.S. Department of Transportation will propose making all new cars talk to each other so they can warn drivers of impending collisions.

Tests have shown that so-called V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communications works in the real world and would be accepted by consumers, the DOT said Monday. The agency is analyzing the results of a yearlong pilot program and plans to publish a report in the coming weeks, then seek public comment before crafting a proposal to make the technology mandatory.

Cars with V2V wirelessly transmit safety information such as speed and location among themselves 10 times per second, the DOT said. It can work over hundreds of yards (meters) between cars that aren't visible to each other. The real-time data can feed on-board warning systems that tell drivers when a collision is imminent. It could prevent common types of accidents such as rear-end collisions, crashes in intersections and cars hitting each other during lane changes, the agency said.

Such a system could help drivers safely make decisions such as whether to pass another vehicle on a two-lane road or make a left turn against oncoming traffic.

Ford Motor Co. demonstrated such a system last month at the International CES. There, a V2V-equipped Ford Taurus SHO sedan entered an intersection at the same time that another, unseen car was approaching from the right. It warned the Taurus driver of the impending crash with flashing lights, an alarm sound and seat vibrations.

The systems DOT is now proposing don't take control of the car, only warn drivers to take action themselves. The agency may act later on "active safety" technology that does take action, and it expects that to "blend" with the warning systems. Also, V2V doesn't track vehicles or exchange or record personal information, the DOT said. The system will have several layers of security and privacy protection.

The DOT said its road test involved almost 3,000 cars and showed that products from different car makers and parts companies can work together. Driver clinics before the road test indicated that consumers wanted the technology in their cars, the agency said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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