General Motors Enters Crash Detection Arena with Unique System

With a number of manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Ford, and Infiniti, among others, working to advance their crash avoidance technology in their respective vehicles, General Motors is pursuing a unique form of collision detection, but this time focusing on something other than other vehicles. GM researchers have begun work on a driver assistance feature that could potentially detect pedestrians and bicyclists on congested streets or in poor visibility situations. The system would then alert the driver as soon as the pedestrian or cyclist is detected.

Researchers hope to do this by using Wi-Fi Direct, a peer-to-peer wireless device that allows smartphones and other electronic devices to communicate without using a shared access point or wire. GM's teams of researchers have determined that the technology can be integrated with other sensor-based object detection and driver alert systems already available on production vehicles. The catch, however, is that nearby pedestrians and cyclists would have to be carrying a smartphone, or other device, with Wi-Fi enabled.

While this is not too much of a stretch considering that most individuals carry a smartphone, GM also hopes to take it a step further by developing a complementary app for Wi-Fi equipped phones. The app will be specially tailored for frequent road users like bike messengers or construction workers. These apps could make it easier for the vehicle to detect individuals who step out into traffic, or a cyclist riding in a driver's blind spot.

The technology is part of the company's ongoing development of their vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications systems that are designed to provide advanced warnings about hazards like slowed or stopped traffic, slippery roads, intersections, and stop signs. Some of the systems are already in place on certain Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC vehicles.

GM opted for Wi-Fi technology because its fast connection times offer a distinct advantage in vehicle applications, according to Global R&D senior researcher of perception and vehicle control systems, Donald Grimm. The quick connection times between Wi-Fi devices helps provide a greater potential for collision avoidance. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, the global association in charge of certifying wireless standards, claims that Wi-Fi Direct devices can reach each other at a maximum distance of 656 feet – or more than two football fields apart.

GM's overall goal for the system is to help save lives, and prevent injuries involving vehicular collisions and pedestrians or cyclists. This is a goal worth achieving, as according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 4,200 pedestrians and 600 bicyclists lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions in 2010.

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