How a Smartphone Might Save You from Becoming Roadkill

Posted by Zachary Slobig

Ever been biking through a green light, seen a car helmed by a distracted driver starting a right turn into your lane, and gotten that sinking feeling that they just don't see you? Or maybe you were behind the wheel and suddenly noticed a biker just off your side view mirror who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Those blind spots can be killers—literally. Nearly 5,000 pedestrians and cyclists were killed in 2010 by collisions with vehicles.

A new Wi-Fi direct system developed by GM is aimed at eliminating these preventable collisions by taking advantage of the basic capabilities of smartphones. By combining Wi-Fi direct, a peer-to-peer connection system that eliminates the need for a shared access point like a tower, with object detection devices and the kind of alert systems that have already become standard on many cars, researchers may be able to build a safety system to dramatically cut down on those fatality numbers.

The big advantage of this new system is the speed with which it can react:

By eliminating the intermediate step required to reach a cell phone tower, Wi-Fi Direct allows devices to connect in approximately one second compared to conventional wireless systems that typically need seven or eight seconds to acquire location information and connect.

Wi-Fi direct enabled devices can detect each other at distances of up to 650 feet, well over two blocks in most cities. Of course, this digital safety net only covers the smartphone-toting class.

Image courtesy of GM