I love new technology when it hits the automotive market, but sometimes I just cannot help wonder if someone else did not think of this first. Two releases I spotted this morning jumped out at me, and I was overcome by a strong sense of déjà vu.
First, Ford Motor Company:
Ford is aggressively accelerating its commitment to wirelessly connected intelligent vehicles – known as vehicle-to-vehicle communications – becoming the first automaker to build prototype vehicles for demonstrations across the U.S., doubling its intelligent vehicle investment in 2011 and dedicating even more scientists to developing this technology.
“Ford believes intelligent vehicles that talk to each other through advanced Wi-Fi are the next frontier of collision avoidance innovations that could revolutionize the driving experience and hold the potential of helping reduce many crashes,” said Sue Cischke, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.
An October National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on the potential safety benefits of vehicle-to-vehicle communications estimates that intelligent vehicles could help in as many as 4,336,000 police-reported, light-vehicle crashes annually, or approximately 81 percent of all light-vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers. Experts say intelligent vehicles could be on the road in five to 10 years.
Ford’s demonstration vehicles will hit the road this spring, starting at major technology hubs across the country.
Ford’s vehicle communications research technology allows vehicles to talk wirelessly with one another using advanced Wi-Fi signals, or dedicated short-range communications, on a secured channel allocated by the Federal Communications Commission. Unlike radar-based safety features, which identify hazards within a direct line of sight, the Wi-Fi-based radio system allows full-range, 360-degree detection of potentially dangerous situations, such as when a driver’s vision is obstructed.
For example, drivers could be alerted if their vehicle is on path to collide with another vehicle at an intersection, when a vehicle ahead stops or slows suddenly or when a traffic pattern changes on a busy highway. The systems also could warn drivers if there is a risk of collision when changing lanes, approaching a stationary or parked vehicle, or if another driver loses control.
I remember a couple years back testing a system like this on GM vehicles during a safety technology tour stop here in North Texas. Cadillacs were telling each other they were both approaching an intersection at the same time and impact was imminent, and “smart” outside rearview mirrors warned of blind spot intrusion. Hmmm.
Next was the release from GM and OnStar:
OnStar is the first company to offer Nuance Communications Inc.’s latest voice recognition software, available in 2011 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models.
The more flexible voice recognition system makes it easier for subscribers to navigate services and features through its ability to understand voice commands in a natural manner. Users can simply say, “I need to make a phone call,” instead of going through a prompt and using more formal language like, “dial” or “call.”
Natural voice technology also allows subscribers to connect with the OnStar Virtual Advisor to access personalized weather and traffic updates by saying common phrases including, “get traffic info,” or “what’s the weather today?” Through text-to-speech technology, subscribers will instantly receive their requested update from an OnStar Virtual Advisor.
Next they are going to be telling me someone invented a way to play music in my car so that I don’t have to keep singing to myself for entertainment. What will they think of next?