Jennifer Healey remembers totaling her car as a teenager. She was cruising down the highway, when she noticed the brake lights on the car in front of her go on. She assumed the car was slowing down, but it came to a halting, abrupt stop. Healey, now a research scientist at Intel working on mobile internet devices, simply couldn’t stop in time and felt powerless as her car smashed into the one in front of her. No one was hurt, but the experience stuck with her.
Jennifer Healey: If cars could talk, accidents might be avoidable “I want you to think a little about what the driving experience is like now. You get in your car, close the door and you’re in a glass bubble,” says Healey in today’s talk, given at TED@Intel. “You can’t really sense the world around you. You’re in this extended body. You’re tasked with navigating it down roadways in and amongst other metal giants at superhuman speeds. And all you have to guide you are your two eyes.”
Healey has an idea for how to make driving significantly safer – let our cars talk to each other and share data about their position and velocity, so they can do the work of avoiding accidents for us. Healey points out that this method would give us a sense of all the cars on the road – not just the ones in our field of vision. There would be no surprise motorcycle pulling around you or truck coming out of nowhere, because your car would know exactly where these other vehicles have been and would be able to predict where they’re going. Vehicles would be able to create the safest routes for all parties on the road, actively avoiding accidents.
Healey says that testing for this system has been done in computer simulations and is now moving to robotic models.
It’s a fascinating idea, given in a passionate presentation. Here, other great TED Talks with ideas about cars.
- Chris Bangle says great cars are Art
- Sebastian Thrun: Google’s driverless car
- Chris Gerdes: The future racecar – 150 mph, and no driver
- Larry Burns on the future of cars
- Steven Levitt on child carseats
- Robin Chase: Excuse me, may I rent your car?
- Dennis Hong: Making a car for blind drivers