US launches test of Wi-Fi to prevent car accidents

A US government-funded program on Tuesday launched a test of Wi-Fi technology to help reduce road accidents.

The Transportation Department said the program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, will enable vehicles and infrastructure to "talk" to each other in real time to help avoid crashes and improve traffic flow.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood joined officials and industry and community leaders on the University of Michigan campus to launch the second phase of the Safety Pilot, the largest road test to date of connected vehicle crash avoidance technology.

"This cutting-edge technology offers real promise for improving both the safety and efficiency of our roads. That is a winning combination for drivers across America," LaHood said in a statement.

The program run by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), is the first test of connected vehicle technology in the real world.

The test cars, trucks and buses, most of which have been supplied by volunteer participants, are equipped with wireless devices to warn drivers about specific hazards such as an impending collision at a blind intersection, with a vehicle in another's blind spot or with a vehicle stopped ahead.

For the test, the devices will also gather extensive data about system operability and its effectiveness at reducing crashes.

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

"NHTSA will use the valuable data from the 'model deployment' as it decides if and when these connected vehicle safety technologies should be incorporated into the fleet."

The first phase of the program showed some 90 percent of drivers who used the technology liked the safety benefits and would like to use it.

rl/nss

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