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VV Lets Get Our Cars Talking to Each Other

Since 2005 General Motors has been testing a technology it calls vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication. (Others refer to the idea as dedicated short range communications, DSRC for short, or car-to-car safety networking.) The idea is to replace all the multiple sensing systems that are cropping up in modern automobiles for such safety functions as lane awareness and driver alertness with a single comprehensive system that will analyze data and deliver warnings not just from the car you're driving, but potentially from the cars around you as well. A car equipped with a GPS receiver like that present in GM's own OnStar system; a short-range, 5.4 GHz radio; and a connection to the braking system, is well on its way to realizing V2V capability.

Such a system, with a healthy dose of computing power added, could take over for long range scanners controlling adaptive cruise control, vision sensors scanning forward of the car for objects, blind spot monitoring, and lane change assistance. Some of the earliest test drives with V2V systems under development by GM were in Cadillacs with a trunk load of equipment, as many as four separate computers handling GPS positioning and wireless communication. But by the time V2V becomes a functional reality with an effective distance of 2.5 meters -- in the next 5 to 7 years by GM's estimates -- all functionality could be reduced to a single chip constantly sending information about the vehicle's position and direction of travel. Warnings sent to the driver are handled by visual cues on the dash and in the mirrors, auditory warning alerts, and even seat vibrations.

For instance a potential problem to the left or right of the vehicle might cause the corresponding side of the driver's seat to vibrate, a system that might seem annoying or even ludicrous on first blush, but one that quickly becomes integrated into the driver's perception of what's going on with the car and its surroundings. Although initial functionality will deliver the most obvious information about obstacles in the car's blind spots, a dangerous degree of proximity, and similar situations, the sky is the limit when two cars start sharing information. The car in front of you, for instance, might blink its tail lights to say, "Hey, you're getting too close." Transponders embedded in the pavement could signal vehicles to slow down as they approach dangerous intersections or deliver information about the status of stop lights to aid with traffic flow.

As a leader in the field of vehicle telematics, GM is working to incorporate V2V as a comprehensive sensing and communications system. Obviously the greatest initial hurdle to the effectiveness of the system will be infrastructure. The more cars that incorporate V2V, the more useful it will become, performing functions undreamed of in the world of passive safety functions. According to GM's figures, approximately 800,000 blind spot accidents occur each year.

They'd like to take that down to zero by making cars not only more self-aware, but more social, sharing vital data vehicle to vehicle.

You wanted one in the Sixties, but your Dad said they were for hippies. That was forty years ago and now the Volkswagen Beetle is for everyone and it's better and hipper than ever.



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