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September 23, 2014

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New technology would warn drivers of imminent crash

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As internet connectivity continues its invasion of everything from televisions to washing machines at this year’s International Consumer Electronics Show, car manufacturers are looking to harness the internet to make driving safer and more convenient.

At the Ford booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the automaker was displaying a new technology that uses wireless signals to transmit a vehicle’s position to other cars on the road to help prevent accidents.

The transmitter can track a car’s speed, acceleration, position and heading angle and broadcasts that information 10 times a second to similarly equipped vehicles within 1,000 feet. If the car’s computer senses a potential collision, it will alert the driver, said Ford engineer Mike Shulman.

“For a long time, car safety was passive safety. Seatbelts, airbags and other technologies were aimed at minimizing damage from accidents,” he said. “This is about active safety and trying to prevent accidents.”

The new technology will be tested throughout this year by a consortium of major automakers and could become a required feature in new vehicles within a few years.

Ford also used CES to show off advances in its in-car Sync technology, which provides traffic, music, news and business locating applications. The company has added a touch screen interface and voice command to help minimize distractions to drivers.

“You can ask the car to find lunch deals near me and it will find a deal, guide you to the restaurant and then the coupon shows up on your smart phone,” engineer Joe Xia said.

The newest version of the technology will be available in the 2013 Ford Escape, Ford Flex and Ford Taurus models, and consumers with older versions of the technology in 2011 and 2012 models will receive a software update on a memory stick in the mail.

Korean automaker Kia Motors, meanwhile, displayed several vehicles with similar technology, including its new concept car, the Kia Naimo.

Naimo means “square-shape,” and the car’s modern design showcases boxy corners, a jade-colored exterior, faux wooden floor paneling and full integration for tablet computers.

Several other luxury automakers had booths at CES, including Audi and Mercedes Benz. Both companies showed off a mix of concept and market-ready vehicles, many featuring similar internet connectivity features.

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