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Ford up its safety tech game

Safety in numbers: Ford’s Wrong Way Alert system will notify drivers if they have entered highways the wrong way which, in Germany, accounts for three per cent of fatal accidents.

Evasive steering assist and traffic alert systems under research at Ford

4 Nov 2016

FORD is exploring new safety technologies that will help drivers steer around stopped cars and warn occupants if they are entering highways the wrong way, as well as new aids to avoid car park bingles, but it remains unclear if and when these features will make it to Australia.

The evasive steering assist, designed to be used at both city and highway speeds, will be an extension of Ford’s forward collision warning and pre-collision assist systems, and “reduces the severity of some frontal collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians”, according to Ford.

The new safety technology will utilise radar and a forward-facing camera to detect stationary or slow moving objects ahead and, if it detects there is insufficient space for the driver to avoid the obstacle and the driver is taking evasive action, will provide steering assistance to dodge, or reduce the severity of a collision.

Ford Europe technical expert of brake controls Peter Zegelaar said the system will reduce steering inputs in an emergency, allowing drivers a greater chance to avoid an incident.

“As soon as the driver tries to steer around a slower car in an emergency, evasive steering assist activates to help execute the evasive manoeuvre by making it easier to perform quick steering movements,” he said.

The Blue Oval is also developing a Wrong Way Alert system to warn drivers, through audio and visual cues, if they are entering highways in the wrong direction by using a windscreen-mounted camera and GPS data that will first go live in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The wrong-way warning system will work in conjunction with the planned roll-out of Ford’s Traffic Jam Assist, an automatic cruise control that will keep the vehicle in lane at low speeds, and a camera-based Advanced Front Lighting System, a technology to illuminate upcoming junctions and roundabouts.

In addition to the two new technologies being researched by Ford, the American car-maker is also rolling out cross-traffic alert with autonomous braking to reduce accidents while reversing in and out of car parks and driveways.

An enhanced rear wide-view camera will also increase visibility for the driver, and an active park assist function will automatically parallel park the vehicle.

Ford Europe driver assist electronics supervisor Dirk Gunia said the new technology will not only help drivers navigate car parks, but will also aid in keeping traffic flowing.

“Parking is one of the most stressful experiences behind the wheel, and drivers struggling to find suitable parking spaces in urban areas can have a knock-on effect for traffic flow as well as stress levels,” he said.

“Technologies like our enhanced active park assist will help drivers feel confident about parking in spaces they might otherwise have considered too small.”

Speaking to GoAuto, Ford Australia product communications manager Damion Smy could not confirm when the new driving aids would come to Australia but said they would arrive when the time is right.

“We always work on bringing the right technology to our consumers at the right time, and fully developed,” he said.

“It’s imperative to us that we have that we have the technology that we offer, whether the Escape’s Park Assist or an autonomous vehicle, fully developed to deliver the maximum benefit for consumers, rather than rush technology to market for technology’s sake.” Ford Europe chassis and safety electronics manager Torsten Wey said leveraging emerging technologies to make its cars safer is “paying off”.

“We’ve all become accustomed to the challengers of driving, but it remains one of the most demanding tasks most of us perform day in, day out,” he said.

“Technology is already proving its potential to help make driving less stressful – and Ford’s investment in research and development is paying off by accelerating innovation to expand our portfolio of driver-assist technologies that deliver functionality and performance that customers will value.”

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