Smartphones Could Keep Pedestrians Safe From Cars

Smartphones Could Keep Pedestrians Safe From Cars

Smartphones and cars have always been at odds with one another, with the dangers of texting and driving the subject of many police campaigns. Smartphones and pedestrians have now also become the subject of scrutiny, with the Associated Press reporting that an estimated 1,152 people admitted to hospital last year in the US suffered injuries while walking and using a portable electronic device.

However, General Motors is attempting to try and turn Smartphones from part of the problem to part of a solution.

General Motors (GM) is currently testing a driver assistance feature, that has the potential to detect pedestrians and bicyclists on congested streets in poor visibility conditions before the driver notices them.

The feature relies on Wi-Fi Direct, the peer-to-peer wireless standard that allows devices like smartphones to communicate directly with each other rather than through a shared access point like a cell phone tower. GM’s research has shown that Wi-Fi direct can ┬ábe integrated with other sensor-based object detection and driver alert systems already available on production vehicles to help detect pedestrians and bicyclists carrying smartphones equipped with Wi-Fi Direct. Essentially, cars would be actively looking for Wi-Fi Direct smartphones (and thus the owners of those devices) and could signal an imminent collision in advance by comparing the two signals up to 656 feet apart.

Using Wi-Fi Direct instead of a cell phone tower, will significantly reduce the time needed for the devices to connect. In fact, 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.

Of course, the success of this venture would depend on pedestrians keeping their Wi-Fi radio active on their smartphones and the efficiency with which the cars can process these Wi-Fi direct signals from smartphones in areas of high pedestrian activity.

Nevertheless, the development of this type of technology certainly paves the way for smarter cars and hopefully safer roads.