GM WiFi Direct App Keeps Pedestrians Safe

Dennis Faas's picture

Most city-dwellers have had at least one scare while crossing the street or riding a bicycle through traffic. But General Motors now believes it can prevent pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities with a new smartphone application.

According to GM and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2010 more than 4,000 pedestrians and more than 600 cyclists lost their lives after being struck by a moving vehicle.

Clearly, something needs to be done to prevent such tragedies from occurring. (Source:

WiFi Tech: Vehicles, Smartphones Interact

GM has been working for several years to develop automotive telematics systems, which allow vehicles to communicate with one another, for their vehicles. The idea is to use wireless (or WiFi) technology to allow vehicles to sense if a collision is likely to occur and provide early warning.

In a situation where a car might strike another vehicle if it makes a left turn, for example, the automobile could prevent its driver from making that maneuver.

The GM smartphone app uses WiFi Direct technology. When installed on a smartphone, the app causes the phone to send out a signal to a distance of 200 yards (two football fields), where it can be received by vehicles equipped with WiFi technology.

Nady Boules, GM's Global R&D director in the company's Electrical and Control Systems Research Lab, sees a lot of potential in the technology.

"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," Boules said.

"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." (Source:

Technology Expected to be Ready By 2017

GM says it believes this kind of technology will be available in about five years, about the time when most vehicles are expected to employ their own WiFi systems.

Until then, it remains up to drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to watch out for one another on city streets and highways.

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