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Wi-Fi Technology Saves Lives of Pedestrians and Bicyclists

In 2011, America recorded the lowest number of road traffic fatalities in more than 60 years. Sadly, that trend is reversing in 2012, and one of the reasons for the new spike in numbers, according to NHTSA officials, is drivers becoming distracted through the use of relatively new technology and specifically through cell phone use.

The increase in road fatalities is due in no small part to the increase in pedestrian deaths, the rate of which actually spiked by more than 4 percent last year, when almost all other categories of road deaths were declining. Now, at least one major American car manufacturer is hoping to expand existing technology to help save the lives of pedestrians and cyclists, as well as alerting drivers to unseen obstructions in the road ahead.

General Motors (GM) already has what they refer to as Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communications systems under development. These systems, which allow information to be shared between vehicles and existing infrastructure, are designed to provide advance warning to drivers of possibly unseen road hazards in poor visibility situations, including:

  • Stalled vehicles
  • Slippery road conditions
  • Road works in progress
  • Dangerous intersections
  • Non-illuminated stop signs

The V2I and V2V systems employ technology referred to in the trade as Dedicated Short-Range Communications (DSRC), but GM are now hoping to develop and integrate Wi-Fi Direct technology that will also detect pedestrians and cyclists and alert drivers who may not have seen them.

The Wi-fi technology is already out there

Rather than relying on DSRC, the new system will use already existing technology that allows Wi-Fi devices to link directly with each other, without any reliance on Wi-Fi hotspots or wired infrastructure. This peer-to-peer technology is already widely in use on devices like smartphones, tablets, notebooks and laptops.

What GM is hoping to achieve is the integration of the Wi-Fi Direct system with systems already in place, such as sensor-based object detection and driver alert systems. The car giant also hopes to be able to tweak the in-car system to eliminate the current lag of between seven and eight seconds that it takes for a signal to be sent to and from a mobile phone tower. They say Wi-Fi Direct, when used as part of the car’s safety and driver alert systems, will offer location data within one second of detecting a hazard…if they can eliminate the middle step involving the mobile phone tower.

Pedestrians and bicyclists could benefit…if they’re “wired up”

The new GM Wi-Fi Direct system, if perfected and implemented, could alert drivers to the kinds of hazards that have heretofore frequently resulted in road accidents, injuries and deaths. For example:

  • The driver could be alerted when a pedestrian (who is carrying a Wi-Fi enabled device) is about to step out into the street from behind a parked car.
  • Bicyclists and motorcyclists riding in a car’s blind spot are frequent victims of road accidents, simply because the driver never knew they were there. The Wi-Fi Direct system will indicate to drivers the presence of other road users in their blind spots.
  • Drivers would be alerted to pedestrians trying to cross roads at unmarked intersections or those who are crossing where there is no intersection during hours of darkness or poor visibility.

Great, but what if the cyclist or pedestrian doesn’t have a Wi-Fi device

Apart from the sensor-based DSRC systems already in place, the new Wi-Fi Direct alerts will only be activated when another Wi-Fi enabled device is within range. However, GM is also working on a new application they say will be free of charge to frequent road users who aren’t always behind the wheel of a car or truck.

The complimentary app will allow people like bike messengers, construction workers, motorcycle couriers, etc., to download Wi-Fi Direct capability. That would allow vehicles that have been equipped with Wi-Fi Direct to identify the presence of these sometimes hard to see road users.

Nady Boules, GM Global R&D Director of the Electrical and Control Systems Research Lab said the new system has the potential to become a key component of the car maker’s safety features. Boules said the company plans to introduce the new Wi-Fi Direct system on many models in their Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC ranges.

Portland personal injury attorneys welcome any advances that will improve safety conditions for Oregon road users. Over the past few years, the use of cell phones in cars—particularly to send and read text messages—has led to far too many innocent victims being seriously hurt or killed by distracted drivers.

In the meantime, accidents will continue to happen, and innocent people will continue to get hurt. When that happens, they face a mountain of medical bills as well as the obvious difficulties associated with recovering from painful and long-lasting injuries. If you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist who has been hurt through no fault of your own, you shouldn’t have to bear the financial cost as well as the physical price already paid.

You should be compensated to your injuries, and the at-fault motorist should bear that cost. Your best chance of ensuring that happens is to contact a reputable, understanding and experienced Portland personal injury attorney, who is familiar with bicycle and pedestrian-involved accidents. A good lawyer knows how to deal with the at-fault motorist’s insurance company, and they also understand how much compensation you should receive. The consultation is completely free, as is their ongoing representation should you decide to proceed with your case, so make the call and get your questions answered.