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Ford Develops Talking Cars

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author photo by Autotrader June 2011

Between its highly capable SYNC infotainment system and dozens of cutting-edge safety aids, Ford is on the forefront of in-car gadgetry – and it just announced a new project that could take automotive technology to new heights. Ford plans to develop talking cars – once a futuristic dream that Ford says could soon be a reality, cutting down on congestion, fuel consumption and even accidents.

While talking cars may conjure up images of KITT, the famous talking car from the TV series Knight Rider, Ford's reality is something very different. Ford's cars don't talk to you, but rather to each other, using Wi-Fi and GPS to identify traffic and road hazards. The "talking" cars then quickly relay important information back to the driver through conventional systems like SYNC.

"We are not far from the day when vehicles will operate like mobile devices with four wheels, constantly exchanging information and communicating with our environment to do things such as shorten commute times, improve fuel economy and generally help us more easily navigate life on the road," said Paul Mascarenas, Ford's chief technical officer and vice president for research and innovation.

According to Ford, several prototype vehicles utilizing the "talking" technology have already been built and even demonstrated in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington DC. In those cars, Wi-Fi technology monitors potentially dangerous situations at a 360-degree radius, instantly alerting drivers to threats as unpredictable as impending collisions with red-light runners. If the technology was added to all cars, Ford says it could help prevent up to 81 percent of all car crashes involving unimpaired drivers.

And it could prevent more than just accidents. Ford says the system could also inform drivers of congested areas, relaying speed and position data to other "talking" cars, thus reducing traffic and saving gas – cutting down on the 3.9 billions of gallons of fuel Ford says Americans waste every year in traffic.

Although Ford's "talking cars" are undoubtedly a great idea, Ford concedes that it will require a large user network and considerable infrastructure investment before the concept really takes off. But by developing such a far out idea into a real possibility, Ford has once again demonstrated that it's leading the way in automotive technology.

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Ford Develops Talking Cars - Autotrader