This technology could address 81 percent of unimpaired vehicle crashes

Imagine driving your vehicle through an intersection as the light turns green, and having your car tell you to hit the brakes immediately. Just as you comply, a car speeds by coming from your left. That car would be in your driver's side door right now had you not listened to your vehicle's request. Now stop imagining, because the U.S. Department of Transportation's Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA)  announced the Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge today, which will bring Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) technology to life.  

RITA is a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation that was created in 2005. It provides transportation statistics and analysis, coordinates research and education programs, and integrates advanced technologies into the transportation system. At the head of the unit's helm is Administrator Peter Appel. 

RITA's Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge is a national competition that is looking for new ideas on how to apply wireless connectivity between vehicles. It is open to all idea innovators whether they work in the transportation industry or not. 

The challenge is specifically looking for applications or product-related ideas that utilize Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), which is a wireless technology that is a faster and more secure version Wi-Fi. DSRC is capable of exchanging messages between vehicles in a fraction of a second without needing any control from the driver. It is also able to do this with a minimal amount of interference. 

With DSRC-based systems, vehicles would not only communicate with each other, but also with the surrounding infrastructure such as traffic signals and work zones. This will allow the vehicle to alert the driver when approaching construction and other driving-related variables. 

"This technology is an opportunity to help create a future where millions of vehicles communicate with each other by sharing anonymous real-time information about traffic speeds and conditions," said Appel. "This new world of wireless communication will make transportation safer, provide better and faster exchange of information for vastly improved daily and long-distance travel, and even reduce environmental pollution."  

Some companies have already started creating technology similar to what RITA is looking for. For instance, CNBC Correspondent Phil LeBeau recently tested a crash avoidance system in Detroit called Intellidrive. The system was created by a dozen major automakers along with the federal government, and utilizes technology that took nine years to develop. Vehicles strictly communicate amongst each other through GPS receivers and Wi-Fi signals, exchanging data about each cars location and speed. With this information, a vehicle can warn the driver of a potential crash before it happens. LeBeau noted that this technology could be available in six to seven years. 

In addition, back in 2006, GM announced that it was looking to create a similar vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) system. The system utilized GPS, Wi-Fi technology, and computer-controlled active safety systems. At that time, it was already being tested on Chevrolet, Cadillac, Saab and Opel models in Germany. 

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, technology that allows vehicles to communicate with each other as well as the surrounding infrastructure wirelessly could address 81 percent of all vehicle crashes that are unrelated to impaired driving. 

The Connected Vehicle Technology Challenge will run from January 24 through May 1 of this year, and the winners will receive "funded opportunities" to present their innovative ideas and produce some of the most advanced wireless technology for new vehicles. 

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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