Networked cars flock to cut accidents

Cars that automatically avoid crashes will make GTA pretty boring
Cars that automatically avoid crashes will make GTA pretty boring

A German research institute has developed software that, for the first time, allows networked cars to work together to avoid accidents.

Smart cars have proven able to negotiate even complex urban situations without crashing, but the situation gets far more complicated when there are other cars on the road.

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft institute in Karlsruhe has succeeded in coordinating the movement of robo-cars, to avoid unexpected situations such as a tyre blowing out.

Its vehicles are equipped with car-to-car communication, cameras, GPS and radar systems so that they can autonomously recognize their surroundings and avoid any potential obstacles.

The vehicles form cooperative groups that automatically transmit their current positions to a car that has been designated the group coordinator.

Always remember the Green Cross Code

Sudden dangers, such as a child running into the road, are recognized not only by the car in front but also by the group coordinator.

If the lead car can neither brake nor swerve because there is another car on the lane to the right, the group coordinator steps in and orders both vehicles to swerve simultaneously.

Unlike ABS braking, for instance, the researchers envisage cars with the system taking over control completely from human drivers.

The Institute is now working on improving the system's ability to recognise and respond to emergency situations.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.