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If cars could talk, would Michigan's roads be any safer?

If cars could talk to each other, would they get along any better on the roads? The U.S. Department of Transportation thinks so and has decided to enlist 3,000 Ann Arbor residents to help test its theory.

The largest-scale test to determine whether cars that can communicate could promote safety kicked off Tuesday in Michigan as the test drivers were equipped with cars that have new vehicle-to-vehicle crash avoidance technology. The warning systems have been predicted to cut back the amount of car accidents involving sober drivers by up to 80 percent.

The Ann Arbor test, which will be overseen by the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute, will last one year and it involves eight automakers.

The cars that are part of the test group have electronic equipment that will track the vehicle's location as well as the locations of other vehicles in the test group. If two of these vehicles are at risk of a collision--for example if cars ahead are slamming on the brakes--the systems will alert each other and the drivers involved by sounding a chime, alarm or voice.

Even if the technology proves successful, a number of roadblocks still exist. For example, consumers may be wary about technology that tracks their whereabouts, and federal and state budgets are also an issue.

Furthermore, even if the car collision warning systems work, a large amount of responsibility and perhaps liability will still rest with the driver when it comes to responding to a warning. Recently, research revealed that lane-departure warning systems did not have an impact on reducing car accidents and this may have been because drivers were not responding well to the collision warnings.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Michigan Residents Test Crash-Avoidance Technology ," Joseph B. White, Aug. 21, 2012

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