Cars are getting better at telling you more about your driving, with heads-up displays showing your speed and direction, and GPS units letting you know where there's construction or congestion. So what if your car started telling you more about other cars, too?
Hari Balakrishnan, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is using 50 limos and taxis equipped with mobile sensors to send data back to a central computer and help predict road conditions with greater accuracy, letting drivers see how problems evolve in real-time and react accordingly. Balakrishnan has plans to expand the project, and is considering how to use regular consumer technology — such as developing an app iPhone users could download — to help feed his computer (and drivers) with more data.
Similarly, Thomas Little, a professor at Boston University, is experimenting with how light can transmit data to other vehicles on the road. A brake light, for instance, could send a signal to the car behind it to cause it to brake hard, too, in the event of an emergency. Road conditions, such as icy pavement or potholes, could also be picked up by the leading vehicle and sent along the chain of trailing cars.
It'll be a while before we see tech like this affecting our driving in a major way, but more complex consumer technology and smart minds to use it means we don't have to wait for the auto industry to raise its standards before we can see technology improving how we drive.