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Automakers, suppliers fund research toward cars that talk to each other

The initiative hopes to implement a working connected and automated car system by 2021 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

DETROIT (Reuters) -- A group of companies, including several large automakers, have joined a public-private research initiative to lay the groundwork for a system that wirelessly connects vehicles and helps smooth the flow of traffic, the University on Michigan said today.

The university's Mobility Transformation Center will help develop and implement technology that allows vehicles to talk to each other and surrounding infrastructure like stoplights to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle accidents. The program includes increased use of technology to automate functions like cruise control and traveling in stop-and-go driving.

The initiative hopes to implement a working connected and automated car system by 2021 in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the university is based and testing a pilot program, the school said. 

Several companies are each committing $1 million over three years to establish the center, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. The center is expected to raise as much as $100 million through 2021 for the project, a spokesman said.

Others participating include auto suppliers Delphi Automotive, Denso Corp. and Robert Bosch GmbH, as well telecommunications group Verizon Communications Inc., printer and copier maker Xerox Corp. and insurer State Farm, the university said. 

In 2012, officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation and U-M launched a pilot program to equip nearly 3,000 cars, trucks and buses with wireless devices that track the speed and location of other vehicles, alert drivers to congestion or change a traffic light to green.

The Mobility Transformation Center will expand the vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure program to 9,000 vehicles in Ann Arbor and is working with the state to support a deployment of 20,000 vehicles in southeast Michigan, the university said.

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