TRAVERSE CITY, Mich -- It's not clear when, if ever, automakers will equip their cars with vehicle-to-vehicle communications systems that would prevent fender-benders at intersections.
But one supplier -- Qualcomm Technologies Inc. -- is trying to design such a system to help motorists avoid pedestrians and cyclists.
Chris Borroni-Bird, Qualcomm's vice president of strategic development, says the company is developing a portable device that would broadcast the position of a pedestrian or cyclist. A properly equipped vehicle would receive that signal and warn the driver if the pedestrian was in the vehicle's path, he said on the sidelines of the 2013 CAR Management Briefing Seminars here.
Qualcomm and other companies are examining such systems at a time when the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration is conducting a major test of vehicle-to-vehicle accident avoidance systems in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The test is going well, researchers say. But it's too early to tell whether such systems will prove practical. And it's also not clear whether an inexpensive aftermarket device like Qualcomm's is ready for prime time.
As Borroni-Bird notes, there's a couple of catches with Qualcomm's device. First, it will require a more precise GPS system that can precisely determine the pedestrian's location. Second, Qualcomm's engineers have to minimize the occurrence of false alerts.
If motorists are falsely warned about impending accidents, they will soon turn off the device, Borroni-Bird says.
The bottom line: the industry has been tantalized by the prospect of communications devices that would prevent collisions. But it could be awhile before this technology is road-worthy.