GM Planning to Keep You Safer by Stalking You Through Your Smartphone

By Jacob Brown | July 26, 2012
While European markets have designed plenty of pedestrian protection technologies over the past several decades, the need for the same safety devices has largely gone underserved in the U.S. Our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cited 4,280 pedestrian deaths and 618 bicyclist fatalities in 2010. General Motors wants to change that, though, taking an active role to develop new preventative technologies, even if they are a little bit stalkerish. GM is developing a peer-to-peer smartphone reader that would allow cars to sense when pedestrians are present, even if they're hard to see. Running on GM's vehicle-to-vehicle technology that it's simultaneously developing, the new pedestrian technology uses Wi-Fi Direct to pick up on capable smartphone signals. By using Wi-Fi direct, GM's technology cuts down on the need to find a cell phone tower and instead relies on short-range phone-to-phone communication. That, in turn, speeds up the process  from a phone finding another in seven or eight seconds, down to one second when others are present. "This new wireless capability could warn drivers about pedestrians who might be stepping into the roadway from behind a parked vehicle, or bicyclists who are riding in the car’s blind spot," said Nady Boules, GM Global R&D director of the Electrical and Control Systems Research Lab, in a statement. "Wi-Fi Direct has the potential to become an integral part of the comprehensive driver assistance systems we offer on many of our Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC vehicles." GM says its Wi-Fi Direct-based collision avoidance system can communicate with with another phone from as many as 656 feet away, or a little more than two football fields. And if the technology isn't going to be used for safety, GM sees its Wi-Fi Direct compatibility also being good for wirelessly downloading files, MP3s, maps, and other programs into cars. And it can even lead to better car-to-car communication for a more even traffic flow. Already, GM uses camera-based collision-avoidance technologies for its lower-end vehicles and a radar-based system in its Cadillac models. While this smartphone signal-based Wi-Fi Direct tool is still in its development stages, you can bet GM is planning for it to hit production in its cars and trucks within a matter of a few short years. Source: General Motors