It starts with a blind spot: a corner you can't see around. You're rushing towards your holiday destination, kids on-board and your luggage in tow. What you don't know, however, is that there's someone exactly like you with kids in the car about to blast across your path at the blind T-junction ahead of you. All of a sudden, your proximity alarm goes off, and you slam on the brakes before you slam into the front of another vehicle. You couldn't see around that corner, but your car could. This is Vehicle-To-Vehicle technology, and it's going to save your life one day.
Sure, it's "experimental" right now, but it doesn't take a scientist to realise that something needs to be done to make the roads a safer place.
Despite the fact that more cars than ever are now being awarded five-star safety ratings, people are still being killed on our roads. It's not enough that cars should protect us when we hit into other road objects at speed: it's time to start preventing the accident altogether.
That's where Ford's Vehicle-To-Vehicle communication experiment comes in.
The idea is simple: The V2V tech sees a car broadcast its speed and position data to other cars nearby via Wi-Fi. This information is then relayed to a driver so that they can make more informed decisions while driving.
Say a car is speeding its way into your blindspot, for example. Existing RADAR and LIDAR systems will be able to tell you when the car is actually in your path, but the V2V network will be able to tell you that it’s approaching before it even enters your vision, or the vision of your scanning tech so you can be better informed about the road conditions around the vehicle.
Cars with V2V will also be able to interpret the information they get from other vehicles, and decide whether or not there’s a risk of collision on the current heading, and one day, they may even be able to take precautions to augment your reaction time. Ford already makes technology that can move your car for you, or even prime the brakes so you're not slamming them cold, costing precious seconds. A combination of technology can be formulated based on the information coming in from V2V tech that could one day save hundreds and thousands of lives.
Of course, this won't work unless everyone's in on it.
Ford is part of a larger consortium of automotive manufacturers, universities and think tanks, who are all racing to figure out how to make V2V networks work first time, every time. For the company that cracks it, a gold mine awaits as they take out the title of safest auto company on Earth.
This is Ford's hand, and it's pretty strong.
So strong that I decided to trust two German engineers against physics, gravity and steel to test it out, and I'm happy to report that it works brilliantly.
Even before the cars came into our field of view, the V2V alarm went off. Using split second computations, the cars figured out that their trajectories, speed and heading would result in a prang if speed wasn't reduced. Sound the alarm, stop the crash from ever taking place.
Of course, the drivers knew each other were there, but their cars didn't. If it had been a blind corner in the real world, two large off-roaders would have T-boned each other, leading to injuries for all involved and a lot of insurance paperwork.
V2V networks could one day integrate with smart cities to route around traffic, perfectly time traffic lights for a great economy run, or find the cheapest fuel. Right now, however, priority-one is saving lives, and we're well on the way to having eyes everywhere keeping us safe.
Luke Hopewell travelled to Taipei as a guest of Ford