Ford wants your car to avoid crashes on its own

Is driving safer if your car and that jerk's car agree not to trade paint?

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No single design has emerged, but Ford is putting together a set of demo models it will take on tour in the Spring and Summer to demonstrate the most-agreed-upon approach: a system with both GPS and WiFi that can identify where it is and warn cars around it to help each of them avoid the others.

Some luxury cars also have visual or radar sensors for collision avoidance or parking assistance. This approach is designed to be much less expensive and widely adopted, to let the cars themselves avoid collisions by talking to each other -- keeping a driver from sideswiping someone in the vehicle's blind spot, or hit the brakes more quickly than a human driver notices cars in front are slowing rapidly to avoid a crash or other obstacle.

Peer-to-peer avoidance systems have a lot of advantages over more sophisticated networks, and could work better because of them.

They're a lot cheaper, so it's more realistic to expect they could be deployed. Their information is always up to date because they're constantly monitoring a tiny zone around them, rather than trying to monitor and control a meta traffic pattern.

And both of the main technologies are already being built into cars.

GPS is becoming a standard feature for luxury cars and a common option on lower-priced models.

And a disturbing number of vendors are looking for ways to add real-time Internet access to moving cars, using WiFi, cellular networks or other means.

You'd think that would guarantee more mayhem from distracted drivers.

But tied with simple, peer-to-peer avoidance systems, they could end up making things a lot safer.

At least for drivers willing to not address their email until they stop the car.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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