Look Both Ways, Enable Wi-Fi: GM Tests Wireless Pedestrian Detection

General Motors says that it is developing a new kind of safety system that will allow vehicles to wirelessly detect nearby pedestrians and bicyclists on crowded streets before their drivers can. The detection system relies on Wi-Fi Direct, and works by linking a vehicle with a pedestrian or bicyclist’s smartphone or other Wi-Fi  Direct-enabled device to determine if that person is walking into the street or in the vehicle’s blind spot.

It almost goes without saying that, in order to be detected, pedestrians would need to keep their smartphones’ Wi-Fi radios on. So if you disable Wi-Fi to save battery life, it can’t save your life.

GM says they chose to use Wi-Fi Direct instead of a cellular connection, because the Wi-Fi Direct standard takes one-second to connect devices, while a cell signal can take between seven and eight seconds. The automaker says that the new detection system would also be able to interface with safety systems found in Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC models. 

GM also says that it’s actively working on a smartphone app for use by what it calls, “frequent road users,” such as construction workers and bicycle messengers, that would help vehicles better identify them. According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, Wi-Fi Direct can work at a range of up to 200 meters, so GM’s plans don’t seem all that far-fetched. How secure the system would be, however, remains to be seen.

It seems like Wi-Fi Direct is something GM wants to take full advantage of. In addition to the pedestrian detection system, the automaker says it’s also looking into other possible ways to use Wi-Fi Direct including wirelessly transferring files from your home computer to your car.

Daniel P. Howley
Daniel P. Howley
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
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