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GM Develops Portable In-Vehicle Device That Creates a Wireless ‘Safety Net’

October 20, 2011

GM's new portable transponder.
GM's new portable transponder.

DETROIT – General Motors is developing a new type of portable device that can improve driver safety. Each device can communicate with a similar device and create a wireless “safety net” that can help alert drivers to dangerous driving situations and conditions.

This technology would warn drivers about slowed or stalled vehicles up ahead, hard-braking drivers, slippery roads, sharp curves, and upcoming stop signs and intersections.

GM said it’s focusing on an aftermarket solution in this case, primarily due to the age of the average U.S. vehicle on the road. The automaker said it’s working on embedding these types of systems into new vehicles, though.

GM said it has been testing the technology in two mobile platforms: a transponder about the size of a GPS unit and a smartphone application that can be linked to the vehicle’s display unit. GM is showcased the technology at the Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Orlando.

The embedded system, portable transponder, and smartphone technologies all use Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC) to transfer data between devices. They have a communication range of about one quarter of a mile in all directions. The DSRC radio can send messages to, and receive messages from, other vehicles in the area. It can also communicate with fixed radios connected to traffic signals or construction zones.

The new smartphone app that uses dedicated short-range communications technology to communicate with other devices in range.
The new smartphone app that uses dedicated short-range communications technology to communicate with other devices in range.

These systems can provide information using basic location data. For example, if the driver at the head of a line of vehicles applies the brakes, vehicles following will automatically receive an alert. Two vehicles approaching an intersection can warn each other before the drivers can see each other, for example.

When fully connected to the automobile’s computer system, these devices also can relay information that sensors throughout the vehicle are collecting. The sensors that activate electronic stability control, for example, could alert drivers in other vehicles about hazardous road conditions ahead.

Pedestrians and cyclists using this technology in their smartphones would also let drivers know their locations, which could prevent collisions.

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