What Did One Car Say to the Other Car?

January 27, 2011

“Hey, Honda Civic, my friend, stay in your lane. This is a friendly message from the Ford Focus to your right.”

“Well hello there, Ms. Lexus. How about letting up on the gas a bit? It’s dark and the roads are icy and, heck, what’s the rush? This is just a caring note from the Cadillac in front of you.”

Cars talking to each other? It could happen. Maybe not exactly like that but in ways that could prevent crashes and save lives.

Who knows, if it catches on, it might also revive one of the worst TV shows of all time, the 1960’s short-lived sitcom, My Mother, The Car. All technology has its downside.

That’s the vision — the safety scenario, not the TV show– behind a U.S. Department of Transportation competition, the Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge, which is seeking ideas for using wireless connectivity between vehicles to make transportation safer.

Through the competition, the government is soliciting ideas for products or applications that use advanced wireless technology that can communicate basic messages – such as alerts about imminent crash situations or roadway hazards – from one vehicle to another in a fraction of a second with minimal interference and without manipulation by the driver.

The spectrum used by this technology has been reserved by the Federal Communications Commission for transportation applications.

This technology could be the basis for a future system of connected vehicles that will communicate with each other as well as with the surrounding infrastructure, such as traffic signals, work zones and toll booths, according to officials. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, wireless Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications can potentially address 81 percent of all unimpaired vehicle crashes.

“This technology is an opportunity to help create a future where millions of vehicles communicate with each other by sharing anonymous real-time information about traffic speeds and conditions. This new world of wireless communication will make transportation safer, provide better and faster exchange of information for vastly improved daily and long-distance travel, and even reduce environmental pollution,” said Peter Appel, administrator of the contest.

The Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge is open to anybody with an idea, not just those working in the transportation industry. It will run from Jan. 24 through May 1 and competition rules and additional details can be found at www.Challenge.gov.

Ford Motor Co. said it would demonstrate this sort of technology at the Washington, D.C. Auto Show.

Other auto companies including General Motors and Toyota have also been working on the technology for years.

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