'Talking' smart cars embark on pilot test on city streets

The U.S. Department of Transportation launches a project involving 3,000 "smart cars" equipped with high-tech gear that informs drivers of upcoming hazards and traffic conditions.

Firebox's remote-controlled version of KITT, which is not actually part of the smart-car pilot test. Firebox

The U.S. government is launching a project in Michigan where 3,000 "smart cars" will be able to "talk" to their drivers.

No, it's not some Knight Rider-esque KITT scenario, it's actually specialized technology that's equipping cars with Wi-Fi to see if such communication can make the roads safer.

"Vehicle-to-vehicle communication has the potential to be the ultimate game-changer in roadway safety," administrator David Strickland from the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement, "but we need to understand how to apply the technology in an effective way in the real world."

This smart car research is part of a $25 million yearlong pilot project being conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It involves 3,000 cars, buses, and trucks loaded with data recorders and wireless technology that will be driving around Ann Arbor, Mich. The goal is to transmit information to drivers on accidents and dangerous traffic conditions.

Eight automakers are participating in the study, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz, according to the New York Times. There will also be roughly 2,800 volunteers involved whose driving habits and experiences will be recorded throughout the study.

Here's more information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on what kind of information the technology will tell drivers:

[Vehicle-to-vehicle] safety technology could help drivers avoid or reduce the severity of four out of five unimpaired vehicle crashes. To accomplish this, the model deployment vehicles will send electronic data messages, receive messages from other equipped vehicles, and translate the data into a warning to the driver during specific hazardous traffic scenarios. Such hazards include an impending collision at a blind intersection, a vehicle changing lanes in another vehicle's blind spot, or a rear collision with a vehicle stopped ahead, among others.

"It's replacing hard assets with smart assets," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said during a press conference, according to the New York Times. "We can better improve traffic without adding infrastructure."

 

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