Someone Invent This: In-Car Emergency Services Warning System

I’ve gotten lazy about sharing ideas for inventions that pop into my head, so here’s another entry in the Someone Invent This category. I think someone should invent an in-car emergency services warning system. Here’s why…

I was in the car with Ashley this past weekend, and we were driving along a road doing 80 km/hr. Ashley was driving, and like any good driver, she was routinely checking her rear view mirror, so she saw the ambulance rushing up behind us and moved over to the right long before it reached us. The guy in the left lane, the lane the ambulance was in, didn’t see it or hear it until it was right up on his bumper – the ambulance had to slow down and wait for this driver to realize they were behind him and move over. This cost the ambulance tens of seconds of momentum, and when you’re talking about emergencies, seconds add up to minutes, and every minute of the Golden Hour counts. Drivers not paying attention to emergency vehicles costs lives, and I think there’s a technological solution to the problem.

Here’s the concept: via a wireless signal, emergency vehicles – ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, etc. – would be able to broadcast their presence to vehicles within a radius of “x” feet. This signal would do a couple of things; mute/pause music/radio playback and audibly broadcast an alert to the driver (“EMERGENCY VEHICLE APPROACHING: PLEASE SAFELY MOVE TO THE RIGHT”). By having a few seconds of warning, drivers, even the most irresponsible ones, would be given an alert they’d likely heed. Sure, human nature being what it is, it might not be the perfect solution – but the vast majority of people would respond to the warning.

Technological implementation? Bluetooth is likely the best bet – there are a lot of cars out there with Bluetooth implemented. I’m not sure if, from a security standpoint, Bluetooth has the sort of “override” needed for this to work. A class 1 Bluetooth device can broadcast 100 metres (328 feet), which seems about right in terms of distance. Cars that have a GPS could implement an advanced version of this, providing Z-axis data…meaning if you’re on an overpass, and an ambulance is driving under you, there would be no warning. There are some interesting mesh network technologies that can be implemented here as well to round out the solution…

Anything involving vehicles takes a lot of effort and coordination, so the inclusion of this wireless system would have to be government mandated and rolled out into vehicles over the course of many years. Retro-fitting older vehicles with the required technology would be difficult – heck, we can’t even get old oil-burning junkers off the road where I live – but over time, you’d reach a critical mass big enough to make this work.

OK, somebody go invent this please. 🙂