"You switch it on and it begins broadcasting GPS location information at about ten times per second," Grimm said.
While the support for such devices is growing, however, the smartphone app idea is also gaining momentum. The smartphone vision is seen as important for two reasons: first, it's less expensive than adding a $100 or $200 transponder to the car; second, smartphones are ubiquitous, which could make the technology spread more quickly. "The idea is that the smartphone is a wireless vehicle module," Grimm said. "If you don't have a dedicated module in the vehicle to run all the V2V apps, you can offload all of that to the smartphone."
For now, automakers are writing their own apps for use with smartphones. Ultimately, though, they envision a day when they would allow outside developers to write the applications in conjunction with an industry standard, such as the one recently rolled out by the Car Connectivity Consortium.
Automakers and suppliers are waiting for a recommendation on the transponder technology from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The recommendation is expected by 2013. "If that goes in a positive direction, you could start to see this happen about four or five years afterwards," Grimm said.
In the meantime, engineers also see great promise in the smartphone concept. Because the V2V idea would have limited impact if it's not used by virtually every vehicle on the road, the smartphone could play a key role, they say. "It's about flexibility," Grimm said. "Millions of drivers have smartphones, and we want to leverage all that computing capability to run these applications.
For further reading