A pilot program that involves vehicles communicating to one another on public roads will continue for six months beyond its targeted end date this summer, the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has disclosed. The US Department of Transportation is undertaking the pilot program using around 3,000 cars provided by eight major carmakers with an aim to prevent or minimize road crashes.
The cars under the pilot program are communicating on public roads through a WiFi-like technology called dedicated short range communication, or DSRC. The test is being done to determine whether the DSRC technology should be installed into production cars or if it’s wiser to conduct more research.
In a statement, DOT said the extension of the program will not affect its plan to decide on light-duty cars by the end of 2013. A decision on heavy-duty vehicles would follow in 2014.
According to DOT, tests running through early 2014 will inform that decision, with a focus on motorcycles as well as on communications between vehicles and the infrastructure along roadways.
Carmakers Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen jointly developed the DSRC technology through a group called the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership.
The eight carmakers have installed DSRC capabilities into test cars, equipping them with custom-designed alarms like flashing lights, sirens or vibrations in the seat or steering wheel – all aimed at providing a danger warning to drivers.
The dangers include a car speeding toward an intersection that a driver is about to cross or a car suddenly braking two cars ahead of a driver. These dangers -- including a fast-approaching car in a driver's blind spot – might not be detected by the radar and camera-based systems used in many of the new cars of today.