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Cadillac’s CTS sedans can now ‘talk’ to each other, which may make driving way less deadly

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Alert drivers to upcoming hazards

General Motors announced today that all of its new 2017 Cadillac CTS sedans would come equipped with “vehicle-to-vehicle” technology that will allow them to communicate with other similar models and detect potential upcoming hazards, like slippery roads or disabled vehicles. For example, when one CTS has a hard braking situation or swerves to avoid an object in the road, that information is communicated to other CTS sedans behind it to alert those drivers to those conditions.

The Cadillacs will use a high-speed, low-latency medium called dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) to communicate with each other. The specification is similar to Wi-Fi, but transmissions happen on the 5.9GHz band rather than on Wi-Fi’s 2.4GHz frequencies, using the 75MHz of spectrum the FCC specifically set aside for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications.

GM says that when one of its Cadillacs approaches an intersection, the technology will scan the area for other vehicles and track their positions, directions, and speeds, warning the driver of potential dangers that might otherwise be invisible. Each vehicle can handle 1,000 messages per second from vehicles up to nearly 1,000 feet away. Drivers will be alerted to upcoming hazards on two screens, the vehicle’s instrument cluster and on the heads-up display behind the steering wheel. Cadillac said recently it plans to begin selling its next-generation in-vehicle user experience system in the CTS starting in March, as well as the 2018 XTS and ATS models.

“Cadillac wanted to be a pioneer in this space, offering V2V technology to our customers,” Matthew Kirsch, engineering group manager for automated driving and active safety, told The Verge.

Soon enough, all cars sold in the US will be required to include V2V technology for safety purposes, if the Department of Transportation’s new rule on it goes into effect. The DOT says the radio technology will offer a farther range than radar or camera sensors, in addition to not being as impaired by obstacles or other vehicles.

Other manufacturers say they plan on including V2V technology in their vehicles, including Mercedes-Benz in the 2017 E-Class. But so far, GM is ahead of other automakers in rolling out production-ready models with V2V capabilities. “We really wanted to get this technology out there,” said Steve Martin, Cadillac’s product and technology communication head. “We wanted to give our customers something straight out of box to rely on.”

Drivers can chose to disable the alerts if they find they are being inundated with too much information, Martin said. But even if their vehicle’s alert system is turned off, their Cadillac will continue to communicate with other models so other drivers will continue to get the benefit. The vehicles are also equipped with firewalls and cyber security provisions to prevent hacking and protect the driver’s identity.

For now, the Cadillac CTS will only be able to communicate with other CTS models, meaning its usefulness in avoiding road hazards will be limited. But if other automakers also utilize DSRC communications, then eventually these vehicles will be able to “speak” with a variety of different makes and models. “When we’re all talking on same communication [spectrum], we all benefit at that time,” Kirsch said.