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GM Developing Wi-Fi Pedestrian Detection Technology

Rain on windshield, on a bridge (Bob Jagendorf/Flickr)General Motors says its researchers are developing a new feature for drivers that detects pedestrians and bicyclists on congested streets or in poor visibility, before the driver can see them. The system is based on Wi-Fi Direct, a peer-to-peer wireless standard that makes it possible for enabled devices to communicate with each other without a shared access point, such as a router or cell phone tower.

By eliminating the intermediate step, Wi-Fi Direct allows devices to connect in approximately one second compared to conventional wireless systems that typically need seven or eight seconds to acquire location information and connect. Nady Boules, director of GM’s Electrical and Control Systems Research Lab, says “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.”

GM’s researchers believe Wi-Fi Direct can be integrated with other current sensor-based object detection and driver alert systems  to help detect pedestrians and bicyclists carrying smartphones also equipped with Wi-Fi Direct. The company is looking into developing a complementary smartphone app for Wi-Fi Direct-enabled devices that can be downloaded by frequent road users, which can identify themselves as “bike messenger” or “construction worker” to alert Wi-Fi Direct-equipped vehicles.

Wi-Fi Direct is designed to seek out other similarly enabled devices and connect, if desired. While the standard was first designed for content sharing and image or video projection on displays within range — about 650 feet — at least one industry analyst believes Wi-Fi Direct can be adapted for other automotive applications. “Not only can Wi-Fi Direct help vehicles seamlessly communicate with other consumer devices,” says Thilo Koslowski, vice president of automotive industry analysis at Gartner Inc., “it can also augment vehicle-to-infrastructure communications as well, which could lead to better traffic management and fewer accidents.”

The following video tells more about plans for using Wi-Fi Direct in GM vehicles.

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Photo: Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

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