Cars to make their own emergency calls

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Cars that call the emergency services when they have been in a crash or are broken into could become a reality if technology unveiled by Intel makes it onto the production line.

The company has unveiled aircraft-style black boxes that record video and images of incidents which can then be used to assist police and insurance companies.

The technology would be permanently connected to the internet, and any footage and images would be automatically sent to the authorities in the case of an accident to establish the cause and who is at fault.

More technology is being developed that would limit the control a driver before an accident even occurs. Camera systems that recognise street signs and take over control of the car should a driver try and go the wrong way down a one-way street for example are said to be in development. Other systems would recognise the location of potholes on the street surface and alert the appropriate maintenance authorities.

The technology was unveiled at a research showcase held by Intel in Santa Clara, California, last week. There are no plans to put any of the kit into production yet, but Intel has confirmed it is in discussions with car makers.

"With vision systems on cars, it is perfectly reasonable for a car on its own to see the sign that says 'wrong way' or 'do not enter' and bring the vehicle to a halt at the side of the road so we don't have these senseless accidents where someone has failed to recognise a sign," said Justin Ratner, the director of Intel Laboratories and chief technology officer.

"We have talked to highway maintenance departments about using sensors that are already in cars to report the GPS coordinates for pot holes in the road to the maintenance department."