Volvo cars will start talking to each other about road hazards

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Volvo has developed a system that provides real-time warnings to drivers of black ice or disabled vehicles on the road ahead.

The technology is currently being tested in Sweden and pulls data from wheel sensors to detect when tires encounter black ice. When that happens, the car transmits a GPS location to a Volvo server, which then sends the data to other vehicles nearby that are equipped with the system.

Drivers of those cars see a small warning icon on the dashboard to alert of the black ice ahead. The icon gets bigger as the car approaches the dangerous area, said Erik Israelsson , project leader for safety at Volvo, during a demonstration at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

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A warning appears on the dashboard of a Volvo car during a demonstration at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on March 3, 2015.

The system is also hooked into the car’s hazard lights and will detect when they are activated. At that time, it sends an alert to nearby cars warning that a road hazard lies ahead.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communications is something of a buzzword in the automotive technology field today. Some researchers are dreaming of complex systems where cars constantly exchange telematics data, providing advance notice before they start changing lanes or slowing down to help avoid collisions.

In contrast to those, Volvo’s system is simpler but it’s likely to be available much sooner.

The company plans to integrate it into the successor model to its XC90 SUV, which is due out sometime in 2016.

Many of the planned vehicle-to-vehicle systems utilize direct communications between cars—something that works well at short distances, but has challenges over longer distances. By running its technology over the cellular network, alerts can be sent to cars over a greater area giving drivers a longer warning of dangers that might lie ahead.

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