Ford's Washington Auto Show booth showed off a new range of specialized car-to-car WiFi networks intended to allow cars to automatically negotiate following distances and lane-changes, so that drivers can be alerted to potential traffic hazards. It's a cool idea, but I immediately wondered if you could transmit bogus information about your car's location, speed, etc, in such a way as to cause all the other cars on the road to yield to you, convinced that they are about to get into a terrible crash. This is a new possibility opened up by allowing cars to self-report their locations and speed to one another, one that isn't there in today's advanced cars, which use sensors to determine for themselves who else is on the road and what hazards they present.
Ford's technology works over a dedicated short-range WiFi system on a secure channel allocated by the FCC. Ford says the system one-ups radar safety systems by allowing full 360-degree coverage even when there's no direct line of sight. Scenarios where this could benefit safety or traffic? Predicting collision courses with unseen vehicles, seeing sudden stops before they're visible, and spotting traffic pattern changes on a busy highway.
As much as 81 percent of all passenger vehicle crashes where alcohol isn't a factor are due to such hazards, according to Ford. That amounts to over 4.3 million incidents each year. Ford wants to reduce that number.
Beyond the safety aspect, Ford says V2V technology, if applied on a national scale, could reduce wasted fuel spent in traffic delays. According to the Texas Transportation Intisute, about 3.9 billion gallons of fuel were wasted in traffic in 2009. That's a lot of gas–$808 worth for the average commuter.