November 4, 2005 1:06 PM PST

Wireless: The new backseat driver?

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The car's dashboard computer screen will also show icons of nearby vehicles. The typical green icon will turn yellow if there's reason for caution (the distance between vehicles is decreasing at a fast clip, for instance). The icon will change to red if there's imminent danger, and at that time, the driver's seat will vibrate.

Drivers can turn on an automatic braking feature to ensure the car will stop in the event of an upcoming crash.

GM is using the communication protocol called Dedicated Short Range Communication, or DSRC, to send and receive messages. The cars communicate using the wireless spectrum 5.9 gigahertz licensed from the FCC for public safety. Toll agencies already use the spectrum to automatically charge commuters with digital IDs.

The Cadillac prototype itself has four computers in the trunk, along with a GPS system and wireless communication module. GM would try to fit much of the software onto a single chip by the time the cars would be ready for production.

The technology was researched over the last two years, but serious development began a year ago by four engineers in GM's internal research and development department, said Mudalige.

One of the biggest benefits of the wireless system would involve cutting the costs of radar and so-called lidar sensors, which measure speed and distance. GM, BMW and many other carmakers currently use those sensors in luxury cars for features like adaptive cruise control, which modulates the speed of a car based on surrounding vehicles.

Mudalige said the wireless sensors could do the work of the long-range and short-range sensor technology much more inexpensively because they're relying on wireless communication between vehicles. To get the same surrounding effect of wireless V2V sensors, carmakers would have to put radar sensors in many places on the car, which would be too expensive. The wireless sensors cost about $100, he said.

Cars like BMW's Mini Cooper already include sensing technology that alerts the driver when the car is too close to another vehicle while parallel parking, for example. Those sensors are lidar and radar sensors. To get the same effect with wireless technology, GM and others would have to build infrastructure in parking lots, for instance.

The V2V system is still far from perfect in other ways, too. In a test drive with a reporter as passenger, the car's computer system failed during an emergency stop. Luckily, Mudalige took over by braking himself.

Despite such bugs, Mudalige is still confident about cars communicating wirelessly. The technology could not only help protect people, it could also help traffic advisers detect and deliver alternate routes to commuters during traffic jams.

"The auto industry will definitely go towards wireless because it's a significant benefit to society to save lives, reduce pollution and for energy conservation," he said. "This is just the beginning."

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I guess people having to LEARN TO DRIVE isn't necessary
I love the sound of that auto breaking feature... your car's
computer (and we all know they're infallible) thinks it's going to
crash... hit's the breaks... and get's you rear ended!
Sounds like a good time on the freeway.
Why doesn't GM just put more effort into making smaller fuel
efficient cars instead of the gas guzzling POS that they're known
for now.
Posted by fear_and_loathing (82 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This sounds like the only kind of news you get is hear say and stigmas. Have you ever actually looked into facts. Which automaker is getting awesome gas mileage on large 6000 pound Mountians of iron on wheels? GM is rated actually quite high as gas mileage compared to all the vehicles on the market, a lot beating that of the "fuel efficent" hondas and toyotas.

If you care to even read quality reports Domestic vehicles are often rated on par or above that of imports are rated at.

If you think this program is odd and unsafe then you should look at the other automakers with "safe" tech. That is why they usually do so much research on this stuff, after all the testing and tweaking they then have to get it all approved through all teh various gov agencies. I wont say it is a cure all for all the problems that could happen but I am sure a resolves a majority of them. All in all they are just trying to make the vehicle more safe by ever mean possible. Everyone is tired of all the idiot lights and buzzers but as long as it doesn't actually reverses what it is suppose to do as harm me then I rather be able to walk away from a crash or escape from a wreck all together.

Oh and btw next year the "gas guzzling POS that they're known for now" are going to come with DOD which is going to give them mileage in the range of a mid sized sedan.
Posted by VaribleX (2 comments )
Link Flag
best idea
"The auto industry will definitely go towards wireless because it's a significant benefit to society to save lives, reduce pollution and for energy conservation,"

I don't get how wireless would reduce pollution. But overall, I think this is probably the best idea from GM ever. As long as the onboard computers, and the wireless thing doesn't operate on a Microsoft OS, we're all safe. :)
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Posted by Roman12 (214 comments )
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great idea
If all car makers follow GM's move, that will be making driving safer.

Wireless tech has a lots of potential for car makers. One application I can think of is to enable voice communication between a group of cars. This will make driving easier when a group of cars need to drive together.

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Posted by tzhang2 (3 comments )
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Oh goody!
Your own car spies on you,what a wonderful tool, just what every police force in the world needs and wishes for,a self incriminating car!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A computer can stop my car? yeah because a computer can sense everything thats going on around us... if people got off their cell phones and paid attention to the damn road and also perhaps we had some people not speed, tailgate and drive aggressively, people wouldnt dream up stupid technology like this
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
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Build Better US Cars!
All this technology is great, but what we need is better-built, more reliable cars from GM and Ford. The current crop is not attracting new buyers. Instead, they buy foreign brands.
Posted by Des Alba (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
we all suck
We Americans all suck we are busy supporting the whole world and keep on buying imported goods. Why can't we concentrate on buying only USA made goods or atleast made by US companies.
Posted by Joelieb1234 (8 comments )
Link Flag
Perhaps fatal wishful thinking....
... with the almost non-existant car maintenance now practiced by
drivers, few cars will have functioning electronics systems. This
concept is aircraft level technology and demands competent users.
The current drivers are not that competent.

The only hope is that the equipment must be fully functional before
the car can move. Further, the driver must also be fully functional.
somehow, I foresee a large increase in pedestrians and parked cars.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
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