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Cars that communicate with each other – and the road – are now being tested in Michigan

Dan Graziano
September 11th, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Using a variety of sensors and cameras, a number of high-end vehicles available today offer autonomous cruise control, advanced emergency braking systems and self-parking technology. While Google’s (GOOG) dreams of fully autonomous vehicles may still be far off, crash-proof cars may be the next big thing. The on-board sensors used in today’s vehicles do not have the ability to communicate with the road or other automobiles, but a couple of weeks ago, a year-long connected-vehicle program hit the streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The project, known as the Safety Pilot Model Deployment, is part of a $22 million partnership between the University of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Transportation, Wheel.ca reports. The test program deployed nearly 3,000 passenger cars, commercial trucks and transit buses equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication devices that will help the team see how automatic wireless communication in vehicles performs in real-world situations.

Most of the communications performed between vehicles will be invisible to drivers, however some drivers will be given either a visual or audible warning in the event of a potential crash. In the future, the technology could also be used to identify traffic congestion and offer alternate routes to drivers. “This is a game-changer for transportation,” program manager Jim Sayer said.

The program is supported by a variety of automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen. At the conclusion of the test period, the Department of Transportation will review the data and consider whether these technologies can be implemented into future vehicles. Unfortunately, it could take six to eight years for automakers to fully utilize these systems.

“This is a big moment for automotive safety,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. “This cutting-edge technology offers real promise for improving both the safety and efficiency of our roads.”

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