Those of you who think that your car is just a means of transportation — a box that takes you from one place to another — think again. Today’s cars have become computers in their own right. Electronic sensors are now used to measure a car’s performance and microprocessors are present to modify components so that they perform properly under any condition. New technologies have been introduced that park the car without any action from the driver and night vision technology is making it possible for drivers to see better at night.
But there is more coming. And the federal government and a major car manufacturer — Ford Motor Company — have taken steps to assure that these new innovations become reality.
After more than 10 years of research, Ford is creating a task force of planners, engineers and scientists from around the world who already have experience in developing sophisticated safety equipment as well as infotainment and driver convenience systems to create intelligent vehicles that, among other things, will prevent collisions and allow cars on the road to communicate with one another. The company, along with other car manufacturers and the federal government, is working to create a “common language” that allows cars to communicate based on a common communication standard. Moreover, the partnership also intends to launch driving clinics starting this summer to test the technology. Ford will be donating two prototype Ford Taurus sedans to the project which will be managed by the Intelligent Transportation Systems of the U.S. Department of Transportation and which also involves the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership, a joint research group headed by Ford and General Motors. The project will help create standards and will be completed in 2013.
The result of the technology could lead to the easing of traffic delays which will save time and fuel costs. Moreover, the technology in conjunction with infrastructure innovations will provide drivers with real time traffic reports that will assist them in choosing less congested routes.
The communication between cars will be based on Wi-Fi, which allows a full 360 degree range of detection. So the car will be able to alert the driver if he or she is on a path to a collision, when a vehicle ahead stops or suddenly slows down, when traffic patterns change, if there is a chance of a collision when changing lanes, when the car is approaching stationary or parked vehicles, or if another driver loses control of his or her car.
All of this is possible because car manufacturers including Ford have already developed technologies that can be used. These include Collision Warning and Blind Spot Information Systems which use radar to detect vehicles or objects near the vehicle.
Moreover, Ford has created a so-called “smart intersection” which communicates information to and from vehicles. For example, this system allows a vehicle to communicate its speed, direction and position about 10 times per second at a distance of 300 to 500 meters.
The ability of a car to “talk” allows for all sorts of other actions. For example, it could allow the car to reserve or bid for a preferred parking spot before reaching a destination
It appears that the federal government understands how important it is to develop such a technology. Two members of the United States House of Representatives, Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) and Russ Carnahan (D-Missouri) have introduced legislation to permit the federal government to select six cities in which to test a system. In addition, the Congress is also considering a new surface transportation bill that will manage how the government spends money from its transportation budget. Those who favor intelligent transportation systems want to be certain that the agenda is part of the government’s long term planning.
Technology is also being developed that would permit the car to notify authorities as an accident is happening. The vehicle’s speed, steering and braking data as well as video from inside and outside the car would be automatically sent to police and insurance companies. Moreover, onboard sensors will be able to detect pot holes in the road and notify road maintenance authorities.