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Is GPS that 'talks' to cars a safety breakthrough?

The next great car safety breakthrough could come from outer space.

Ford Motor Company and Auburn University said a joint research project shows global positioning system (GPS) satellites that "talks" to cars could help prevent accidents in the future.

The idea is that a GPS satellite could work as a kind of early warning system that detects when a vehicle is about to lose control, and communicate with the vehicle's stability control systems and other safety features to prevent a rollover or, in theory, other types of accidents.

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Ford said virtual reality tests show that GPS satellites can precisely monitor a vehicle's motion, which could improve the speed and effectiveness of electronic stability control systems. The car company sounds eager to move ahead with the project.

"A satellite orbiting the earth could someday prevent an auto accident," said Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, Ford's CTO and vice president of research and advanced engineering. "We applaud the Auburn team for these advancements and look forward to working together on the next phase of this research, including developing prototype vehicles."

The research findings will be presented next week at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics in San Antonio, Texas, Oct. 11-14.

The project is part of Ford Motor Company's $4 million investment in university research programs in 2009 that includes 16 safety projects.

**Volvo goes under cover**

Separately, Volvo sneaked a preview of its sporty new Volvo S60 not set for release until next year. The company said a disguised prototype S60 sedan was driven through the streets of Copenhagen to test a new safety technology that can detect a pedestrian in front of the car and brake automatically if the driver doesn't react in time.

Presumably the test was a success based on Volvo's upbeat release on the project, though I haven't checked accident reports in Copenhagen.

The new technology, Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection, will be introduced with the new Volvo S60 in 2010. Volvo said its safety experts have been working with Pedestrian Detection technology for ten years and have already tested it in other cars in other parts of the world.

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