Ever walked straight into traffic because you were too busy using your mobile phone to notice the threat of impending death? Well help could be at hand. GM is developing a pedestrian safety system that uses the WiFi signal from a jaywalker's phone to alert drivers of a potential collision.
GM's Wireless Pedestrian Detection Technology system uses WiFi Direct, a peer-to-peer wireless standard to detect pedestrians and cyclists carrying smartphones that are equipped with the technology. If a cyclist strays into a vehicle's blind spot or a pedestrian begins to walk into the path of a car, the driver is alerted and can take evasive action.
The system can be integrated with other sensor-based active safety systems such as those that apply the brakes automatically when they detect an imminent collision.
GM says a downloadable app could allow the car to identify specific people. Frequent road users could tag themselves as 'bike messenger', 'construction worker', 'fat ginger kid' etc. that could help drivers better identify who they're about to run into and whether they should bother stopping.
According to GM, WiFi Direct allows connections to be made in seconds. We'll believe it when we see it though -- the WiFi Direct demonstrations we've seen all involve phones that take an age to connect. If this is the case with GM's system, you'll likely feel the bang before you hear any warning beep.
Of course, there's another slight hurdle to overcome in the fact that WiFi Direct is only available on a handful of mobile phones, though hopefully the tech will become more widespread over time.
When it isn't saving lives, GM's Wireless Pedestrian Detection Technology can be used for other purposes. WiFi Direct can facilitate secure transfers of MP3 audio or digital address book information between a home computer and a user's vehicle, so you could transfer your entire music collection to a car's onboard hard drive before you set off on your journey.
There's no word on when or indeed if the system will go into mainstream use, but GM says the technology could potentially crop up in any number of its car brands. Watch the video below to see it in action.