As the Japanese version of a Honda Accord pulls up to a blind intersection, the navigation screen flashes the urgent message "Caution: Oncoming Vehicle!"
A moment later, a motorbike whizzes past, its electronically transmitted warning having potentially saved it from a collision with the car.
The demonstration at Honda's test center outside Tokyo previews what is shaping up as the next phase of automotive safety: vehicles that talk to each other and the highway system itself.
They silently send or receive warnings from other cars in close proximity. Or they pass information back and forth to sensors along the roadway that become part of a real-time database.
They tell of their approach to an intersection, warn about hazards ahead or keep an inattentive driver from running a red light, all with the goal of preventing accidents.
Around the world, major automakers from General Motors to BMW see the idea of a transportation system that can communicate as a major safety breakthrough.
"It does seem like it's straight out of a science-fiction movie," says Robert Strassburger, vice president of vehicle safety for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. "But it's happening already."
Seat belts require people to buckle up. Air bags work only after the crash. Only so-called intelligent transportation systems can prevent an accident from happening in the first place. They could be especially valuable in stopping crashes at intersections or when vehicles swerve off the road. Those kinds of accidents accounted for about half of the 42,636 U.S. highways deaths in 2004.
Intelligent transportation also offers a lucrative side benefit: the sharing of information that could ease traffic congestion, which wasted an estimated 2.3 billion gallons of gasoline in 2003, according to a Texas Transportation Institute estimate. Traffic jam data could be gathered from the electronic messages of cars themselves, not just from sensors in roadways.
That sounds AMAZING. Why didn't they do this a long time ago?
This could save many lives and seems simple to implement. It's practical, and amazing.
The future of cars....
Whatcha guys think? I think this is amazing.