Michigan begins a test to see how smart cars can be

The U.S. Department of Transportation began a new phase in a project, joining researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, that will track data from vehicles in hopes to make driving safer. The $14.9 million, yearlong study began yesterday will have cars talking to each other on a dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) system, similar to Wi-Fi but operating on a specified band of spectrum the FCC has set aside for autos. Break it down The Verge:

The deployment includes approximately 2,800 cars, trucks and buses, 300 of which are getting aftermarket safety devices to beam data like position, velocity, and acceleration to and from neighboring vehicles and infrastructure ten times every second. Another 64 will be "fully integrated," with safety systems installed during production, while the remainder will have simple transmission-only devices.


Researchers say DSRC is better than Wi-Fi for a couple reasons. First off, it’s faster and more reliable. Also, be able to track you. It’s specifically being deployed for safety reasons. So when a giant bus comes barreling through a red light, getting ready to crash into that tiny two-seater you drive because it fits into more parking spaces than other cars, you won’t be pressed into the city’s newest manhole cover. DSRC will tell your car and the bus about the impending collision with (hopefully) enough time for you to react or for your car’s auto-brakes to kick in. It won’t, however, use information from the bus’ data to give the driver a ticket.
Bonus green points! Again, from The Verge:

… it’s hoped that the project will have green spillover effects for the environment. Drivers will be able to get accurate real-time traffic updates directly from cars ahead of them, and be given alternate route suggestions. If all goes according to plan, fewer accident-induced backups and better use of less-congested roads should lead to less efficiency-sucking idling.

About the author

Marc Sanchez is the technical director and associate producer for Marketplace Tech Report where he is responsible for shaping the sound of the show.
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