Yesterday, Research and Innovative Technology Administrator Peter Appel and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration Brodi Fontenot were treated to a demonstration of Ford Motor Company's new vehicle-to-vehicle safety technology.
It was a thrilling glimpse into one possible future of American transportation.
With vehicle-to-vehicle communication, intelligent cars talk to each other wirelessly, warning drivers of potential dangers. Ford is one of the first automakers to build prototype vehicles demonstrating this exciting new technology, which could also be installed in buses, trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles.
In the demonstration, Administrator Appel and Deputy Assistant Secretary Fontenot endured several hair-raising potential crash scenarios. And, from potential crash scenario to potential crash scenario, the new technology alerted the driver before it was too late and in ways our current vehicles simply cannot do.
"It wasn't comfortable, knowing that we were being driven deliberately into the most common situations where crashes occur," said Deputy Assistant Secretary Fontenot. "But each time, the vehicle alerted the driver--way in advance of his ability to see the danger on his own."
But the Ford prototype receives the wireless signal from the lead car and informs the driver immediately--without the dangerous delay of the long chain of brake lights.
In a less common--but perhaps more dangerous--occurence, vehicle-to-vehicle technology can warn a driver when a nearby car is approaching an intersection and is likely to violate the right-of-way. Imagine approaching an intersection where you have the green light. Now imagine that a vehicle you can't see is approaching from the right and ignores the red light. Unless you and your passengers learn of this reckless approach, you are all in potential peril.
In an environment like our roadways, where every second counts, learning of a developing danger even one second early can make a critical difference. That's where this technology is truly lifesaving.
And one of the most attractive aspects of this new technology is its low cost. As amazing as vehicle-to-vehicle communication may seem, it is built on the same wireless technology you have in your home. When these vehicles go into production, we expect the new safety enhancements to add no more to the cost of your car than the seat belts we take for granted today.
And that's good news for all of America's families.
"Each additional vehicle on the road equipped with this technology, "said Adminstrator Appel, "makes everybody on the road safer. So, knowing that it will be affordable is actually a big safety plus."
This technology did not create itself. It is the outcome of a public-private partnership between the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (a coalition of automakers) and RITA's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office.
As Ford Automotive Safety Director Jim Vondale said, "Ford has laid the groundwork with WiFi technology, and now we're working with other automakers and government leaders worldwide to develop common standards to bring intelligent vehicles to market quicker and more affordably."
This technology is still a few years from production, but it certainly looks promising today. And if you think you have ideas for other applications using vehicle-to-vehicle communication, don't forget the challenge Administrator Appel blogged about on Monday. We welcome your suggestions at challenge.gov.