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Smartphone Communication Could Make Roads Safer, Says GM

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GM's smartphone-based vehicle communication app

GM's smartphone-based vehicle communication app

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Your car might already have an option to synchronize with your smartphone, but General Motors reckons the technology could offer so much more.

Apps like Waze and Bump can be handy for avoiding traffic (or chatting if you're already stuck) but vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems incorporated into a smartphone app could help you avoid accidents by delivering early warnings.

Information gathered from other vehicles and delivered across the network would let you know if a vehicle up ahead on the free was braking heavily long before you see it, or whether a car has broken down around a blind corner. Other systems would warn of slippery surfaces ahead or when a light is about to turn red.

Avoid accidents before they happen

The aim is to take car technology to a point where accidents can be avoided before they've even started, rather than relying on active safety measures such as ABS and active stability control to control a scenario as its happening, and passive safety measures including airbags and safety belts when things go wrong.

Such technology could reduce current accident rates by up to 81 percent in the U.S, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

One problem up until now with safety systems monitoring road conditions is the expense of installing it in enough vehicles for it to be effective - particularly since the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads is 10.2 years old. This is no longer an issue.

“By putting the technology into portable devices, we could make this potentially life-saving technology widely available and more affordable.” explains Don Grimm, senior researcher for GM's Perception and Vehicle Control Systems group.

Portable safety

GM has been testing the technology in two familiar mobile platforms: A transponder the size of a typical GPS unit, and a smartphone application. The smartphone could then be connected to the vehicle's audio and video display systems.

The smartphone version has added benefits, too. As pedestrians and cyclists would be able to download the app, an extra dimension of forewarning can be taken into account, the car being aware if there's a cyclist up ahead, or a pedestrian about to cross the road obscured behind a large vehicle.

GM is showcasing the technology this week at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Orlando. If all goes well, the technology could soon be one of the biggest contributors to road safety we've seen in years.
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