January 17 , 2008, According to the World Health Organization an estimated 1.2 million people lose their lives every year due to car accidents. With the hope of reducing that number, European researchers are developing a Collision Warning System (CWS) for cars, an early warning device which will warn drivers of dangers ahead and may give them enough time to avoid a crash.

The CWS uses two systems which are starting to become standard features in some new cars-GPS and Vehicle2Vehicle (V2V). Vehicle to Vehicle is a car vehicle communication system that can tell the driver the position and movement of cars around him, warn of slow traveling vehicles or even if a vehicle ahead has braked hard. Using the information from these two systems, the CWS determines the position of cars around and ahead of the vehicle. It calculates where they will be in a few seconds time and then warns the driver if a collision is imminent.

The Reposit team has been using a fully-functioning prototype in a laboratory simulator and has had some success so far, managing warning times of between 1 to 3 seconds ahead of a collision. High-quality GPS systems work better than cheaper versions but the team has achieved a 1.5 second warning time using a cheaper GPS and believe that they can improve this time with further developments using the car’s sensors.

“So far, we’ve got predictions about 1 to 3 seconds ahead of a collision… but anything from 2 seconds up gives drivers time to react. It works better at medium-to-high speeds, above 50km/h,” reveals Jose Ignacio Herrero Zarzosa, coordinator of the Reposit ‘relative position for collision avoidance systems’ project.

The CWS software program is cheap but unfortunately there is no standard for integrating new functions into an existing car system and car manufacturers use different system integration methods. However, General Motors are already using V2V so it’s only a matter of time until we see GPS and V2V as standard in new cars. That may mean that the CWS will one day help to save lives and take us one step further to “connected” cars.