The Washington Auto Show isn't known as the place for hot new concepts or production models, but it does have its share of future vehicle tech, and the latest from Ford previews its plans for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) tech aimed at improving traffic, safety, and efficiency.
The first prototypes sporting Ford's V2V system are currently under construction with plans to tour the U.S. this spring. They'll feature the ability to communicate wirelessly with each other, relaying traffic hazards, congestion, and other information to help drivers navigate their routes.
Ford's technology works over a dedicated short-range WiFi system on a secure channel allocated by the FCC. Ford says the system one-ups radar safety systems by allowing full 360-degree coverage even when there's no direct line of sight. Scenarios where this could benefit safety or traffic? Predicting collision courses with unseen vehicles, seeing sudden stops before they're visible, and spotting traffic pattern changes on a busy highway.
As much as 81 percent of all passenger vehicle crashes where alcohol isn't a factor are due to such hazards, according to Ford. That amounts to over 4.3 million incidents each year. Ford wants to reduce that number.
Beyond the safety aspect, Ford says V2V technology, if applied on a national scale, could reduce wasted fuel spent in traffic delays. According to the Texas Transportation Intisute, about 3.9 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in traffic in 2009. That's a lot of gas--$808 worth for the average commuter.
V2V tech could eventually move beyond the cars themselves, leveraging handheld devices to bring the capability to cars. "Ford has pioneered connectivity in modern vehicles with SYNC," said Mike Shulman, technical leader of Ford research and advanced engineering. "We believe advanced Wi-Fi for intelligent vehicles could be added to smartphones or GPS systems and simply connect to SYNC like today's phones."
Or, as Paul Mascarenas, vice president of research and advanced engineering put it, "The day is not far off when our vehicles will operate like mobile devices with four wheels, constantly exchanging information and communicating with our environment to do things like shorten commute times, improve fuel economy and generally help us more easily navigate life on the road."
Prototype vehicles will also be delivered to the Department of Transportation for research and testing early this summer.