Newer technology like GPS and Wi-Fi have given us easy access to directions, and soon, in-car Internet. Ford is working with the federal government and other automakers to use that same technology to improve safety on our roadways as well. Since 40% of all accidents and 20% of automotive fatalities occur at intersections, stop signs and stop lights were the smart place to start.
The new "Smart Intersection" uses Wi-Fi and GPS to find the exact location of your vehicle and determine if a warning is needed to help you stop. When driving through an intersection, an on-site black box and two wireless antennae communicate with your vehicle. If the light is red and it's determined that your vehicle isn't stopping, a wireless signal will be sent to your car, alerting you with a visual and audible warning signal in a fraction of a second. A series of red LEDs will flash, a noise will sound, and a voice will say "stop sign" or "stop light". With drivers preoccupied with cell phones, in-car eating and sipping on java, the warning quickly refocuses his or her attention back to the road. We tried it ourselves, and we can tell you firsthand that the warnings quickly got us to stop the car.
The move toward active safety comes as most automakers are getting four or five stars in NHTSA crash testing, making the next focus of their efforts the avoidance of accidents altogether. The Smart Intersection could help save thousands of lives per year, while also cutting back the three billion gallons of fuel wasted each year in accident-related traffic jams. Honda, Toyota, GM, and Daimler are also working on smart intersections, and Ford collaborated with Michigan's Oakland County to set up a couple of real-world techno-intersections for testing. Unfortunately, it could take 20 years to get smart intersection technology in every traffic stop and vehicle, but at least much of the technology needed to accomplish this goal is already here. Follow the jump to see a video of the Smart Intersection in action.