In the future your car will be able to warn you of an impending crash, or perhaps even take action itself to avoid one, by ‘knowing’ well ahead that another car has suddenly stopped in a queue of traffic, is about to cross paths with you at a busy intersection, or is even approaching around a narrow blind corner. It will do this by electronically communicating with its surroundings via technology being developed by automakers around the globe.

One of the leaders in this field is Ford, which started work several years ago on a smart traffic intersection near its headquarters in Detroit, which relied on GPS and other wireless communication technologies to enable traffic lights and street signs to send warnings to approaching vehicles. And before that Ford partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to equip 100 state vehicles with sensors to collect traffic-related data including vehicle speed, location, direction and even localized weather conditions to develop driver information systems.

Now Ford engineers are advancing the technology with real-world testing of car-to-car communication technologies, in addition to testing of previous car-to-object communication technologies. The engineers are working together with several other automakers in an initiative being led by the German government in order to develop a common standard for future car-to-car and car-to-object communication technology.

Dubbed “Safe Intelligent Mobility - Testfield Germany” (simTD), the initiative includes a four-year practical field test of the potential of intelligent communication systems to improve traffic safety and mobility. A total of 120 vehicles are participating, 20 of them coming from Ford.

Some of the tests include obstacle warning systems, a traffic sign assistant, a traffic monitoring system, and in-car Internet systems. As an example of the technology, the image above shows one car acknowledging that another car, obscured from view, is slowing down ahead in a queue of traffic, allowing the driver of the initial car to also slow down.

Experts believe roads could be made safer and traffic congestion reduced by using mobile communications technology to integrate vehicles with each other and with transport infrastructure. Additionally, research has shown that when some form of autonomous control is included, accidents are reduced, so the benefits are obvious.

Other automakers participating in the simTD initiative include Audi, BMW, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen. GM, in particular, is also further advancing the technology by including a car-to-pedestrian communication system that relies on smartphone signals to warn of nearby pedestrians and cyclists.

GM working on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-X communications systems

GM working on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-X communications systems