Cars that talk to each other could help lower accident rates

What is the most efficient way to avoid car accidents? Some people would say that the only way to end car accidents would be to end human error, and even then, some car accidents may still be unavoidable. Human error, however, certainly accounts for the largest percentage of car accidents. Car accidents caused by drunk drivers, fatigued drivers and distracted drivers would all be eliminated if human error could be stopped.

Since eliminating human error seems unlikely, there may be another way to reduce the number of car accidents caused by humans. What if cars could communicate with each other and then communicate with their drivers when trouble was approaching? That may be the next step toward driverless cars.

At a recent safety demonstration, a Ford Taurus was approaching a green light at an intersection. Just before the intersection, a series of red lights flashed on the car's windshield and a warning sound pulsed through the car. The warning message indicated that another car -- a car that had a red light -- was quickly approaching the intersection.

The Ford Taurus stopped, and a moment later, another car sailed through the intersection on a red light. Without the warning lights, the Ford Taurus would have gone through the intersection and been T-boned by the car running the red light.

The flashing lights on the Taurus's windshield and the warning sound were both caused by new technology. The two cars are a peek into the future of car safety -- cars that communicate with each other and warn their drivers about impending accidents.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the demonstration is realizing that this is not just a demonstration at a safety seminar. This technology will be available to consumers soon. This summer, the government is launching a yearlong study involving nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and buses using volunteer drivers in one city.

It will be interesting to see how the technology evolves and how it impacts car accident rates and vehicle safety.

Source: ajc, "Cars avoid crashes by talking to each other," Joan Lowy, The Associated Press, June 8, 2012

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