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Wireless pedestrian detection identifies bystanders in blindspots

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General Motors is working on a new Wi-Fi system for automobiles that can help drivers identify nearby pedestrians and cyclists on the road.

Cars these days have safety features galore: rearview cameras, inflatable seat belts and airbags for drivers and pedestrians. But there's still much work to be done with traffic safety. In 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 4,280 pedestrians and 618 bicyclists died in collisions with motor vehicles.

Now General Motor’s is developing Wi-Fi Pedestrian Detection Technology that will be installed in cars to increase driver awareness and prevent pedestrian-driver collisions.

The system detects pedestrians and cyclists -- as long as they're carrying a smartphone -- before a driver is able to spot them using a peer-to-peer wireless standard that allows smartphone devices to communicate directly with one another. And because peer-to-peer wireless does not need to go through a mobile phone tower, information can reach users in approximately 1 second.

"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," Nady Boules, GM Global R&D director of the Electrical and Control Systems Research Lab said 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."

General Motors is also working on a free app to be downloaded by bike messengers and construction workers to help vehicles identify them.

“As we move toward becoming a more connected society, having a self-aware connected car will be increasingly important,” Thilo Koslowski, vice president of automotive industry analysis at Gartner Inc., said in a statement. “Not only can Wi-Fi Direct help vehicles seamlessly communicate with other consumer devices, it can also augment vehicle-to-infrastructure communications as well, which could lead to better traffic management and fewer accidents.”

How Your Smartphone Could Stop a Car From Running You Over  [Wired]

Photo via General Motors

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Amy Kraft

Weekend Editor

Contributing Editor Amy Kraft is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for New Scientist and DNAinfo and has produced podcasts for Scientific American's 60-Second-Science. She holds degrees from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure