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Chatty Cars

Germanys new car-to-x communication system

Ever wanted your own KITT from hit 1980s show Knight Rider? Well, soon you might get your chance as Germany's new car-to-x communication system makes the talking car a reality.

Okay, so it's not quite in the same league as Hasselhoff's chatty on-screen counterpart, but this latest innovation in automotive tech is still pretty exciting.

The car-to-x system allows equipped vehicles to communicate with other vehicles on the road, traffic light systems and congestion monitoring devices to provide the driver with the most up-to-date information about driving conditions in the nearby area. The system can warn drivers of up-coming hazards, delays and diversions well in advance, promising to reduce traffic jams, accidents and motorway pile-ups.

The brains behind the project are Frankfurt-based Safe Intelligent Mobility Testfield (Sim TD), who are currently field-testing some prototype systems in their home city.

Sim TD are teaming up with some leading car manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, VW and Ford to get their systems into brand new models. Sim TD predicts that the first car-to-x vehicles will arrive on the market in 2015.

So, what is the talking car going to look like? Well, you can say goodbye to KITT's cool red LED light display - the cars of tomorrow are expected to look not much different from those of today. There are likely to be some cool gadgets inside though, including an integrated monitor on the dashboard and a vibrating device in the steering wheel to provide haptic feedback directly to the driver when a hazard is detected.

Sim TD believe car-to-x could potentially save thousands of lives and millions of euros by dramatically reducing the risk of road accidents involving automobiles, motorcycles and pedestrians. It will also cut down congestion, transforming our clogged-up motorways into well-oiled machines.

The system works by tapping into wi-fi and 3G networks to send data to and from moving vehicles. The network is also hooked up to intelligent traffic lights, interactive signs and other on-road systems.

A spokesperson for Berlin's Fraunhofer Focus Institute assures us that data will not be stored anywhere on the system and that it will be impossible for anyone to use your vehicle's data to track you.

Still, you have to wonder if this is how Skynet is going to start.