New 'Smart' Car Technology Will Prevent Crashes

Erik Von Weber | Stone | Getty Images

A new technology designed to protect drivers from potentially deadly collisions and stop thousands of fender-benders is moving closer to being a standard part of every car and truck. In fact, it could be in every new vehicle within the next five to six years.

Imagine if any car could “talk” with other vehicles on the road and they could warn each other that they are about to crash. It may sound like something out of the 1960s animated sitcom, the futurisitic Jetsons, but it’s actually closer than you might think to becoming reality.

A car crash happens every six seconds in the US. There were 5.2 million crashes in 2009, in which almost 34,000 people were killed and another 2.22 million injured.

"It is way too many,” said David Strickland, an administrator with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “and if we have the ability for the vehicles themselves to intervene and stop an accident in a really thorough and thoughtful way, this really is a thing that we have to reach out and achieve."

A group of major automakers, including Ford, GM and Toyota are developing technology that allows cars to communicate with each other and warn drivers.

It’s called Intellidrive,and here’s how it works: Using GPS transmitters and wi-fi, cars constantly send out signals with their location and speed. So a driver approaching an intersection where another car is about to run a red light will be warned to hit the brakes to avoid a collision.

Or, if he or she is going so fast the car will run a red light or stop sign, the Intellidrive system will warn the driver to brake before it’s too late.

One cause of vehicle-to-vehicle accidents: all drivers have blind spots and sometimes don’t see other vehicles.

"I think this has huge potential to reduce crashes on our freeways and save lives,” said Farid Ahmed-Zaid, a technical expert of active safety at Ford.

Such a change will require the federal government's help, which will take some time. But make no mistake, the day will come when cars are “talking” to each other, making you safer behind the wheel.