WASHINGTON -- A closely watched test of vehicles that monitor and talk to one another to avoid crashes will run for six months beyond its original end date this summer, U.S. auto safety regulators say.
Under the pilot program in Ann Arbor, Mich., nearly 3,000 vehicles are communicating on public roads using a WiFi-like technology called dedicated short range communication, or DSRC.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, using cars provided by eight major automakers, is undertaking the test to decide whether to start putting DSRC technology into production cars, or to do more research.
The DOT said in a statement the extension will not affect its plan to make a decision on light-duty cars by the end of 2013.
A decision on heavy-duty vehicles would follow in 2014.
DOT said the tests running through early next year will inform that decision, with a focus on motorcycles and on communications between vehicles and the infrastructure along roadways.
The automakers involved in the test -- Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen -- jointly developed the technology through a group called the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership.
All of the automakers have built DSRC capabilities into test cars and outfitted them with custom-designed alarms, such as flashing lights, sirens or vibrations in the seat or steering wheel -- to warn drivers of danger.
The danger might be a car speeding toward an intersection that a driver is about to cross, a car suddenly braking two cars ahead of a driver, or a fast-approaching car in a driver's blind spot. All of these scenarios might not be detected by the radar and camera-based systems used in many of today's new cars.