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Ford works to ease traffic pain
Vehicle autopilot tipped to cut daily commuter grind for Ford drivers from 2017
28 Jun 2012
TECHNOLOGY to keep traffic moving in lockstep to avoid gridlock might be able to reduce daily city commuting times by 37 per cent, even if only a quarter of the vehicles have the device, according to Ford Motor Co.
The American company is working on an intelligent driving system called Traffic Jam Assist that it says potentially could improve traffic flow while also reducing driver stress.
The system is not much more than a combination of existing technologies such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning, all working together to guide the car at the same pace as surrounding traffic.
However, the system elevates the lane-keeping aid – which warns drivers that their car is wandering out of its lane, sometimes with a mild steering correction in sophisticated systems – into a full automatic steering system.
Ford’s system, which it says is just one of a number of new technologies that could become available from 2017, uses a combination of radar sensors and cameras to guide the car by keeping tabs on the vehicle in front and lane markings on the road.
Ford Research engineer Joseph Urhahne said drivers typically spent more than 30 per cent of their time in heavy traffic.
“Traffic Jam Assist could help make travelling through congestion a more relaxing experience and, by using Ford technology to keep pace with the flow of traffic, potentially help relieve road congestion,” he said.
Ford said simulations showed that journey times could be reduced by 37.5 per cent and delays reduced by 20 per cent on a stretch of road where 25 per cent of vehicles were equipped to automatically follow the traffic ahead.
However, the system only works where lanes are clearly marked and roads are closed to cyclists, pedestrians and animals.
Ford said some of its cars already feature automated steering, in the form of hands-off parallel-parking systems available on cars such as the Focus – inferring the same system could be adapted to automatic forward driving if melded with the directional sensing systems.
The traffic jam system is part of Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility, the company’s “strategy to address future mobility challenges as cities and roadways become more crowded around the world”.
Ford cites examples such as regular 160km-long traffic jams in Sao Paulo and a Chinese traffic jam that lasted 11 days in 2010.
Outlining the Blueprint for Mobility in February, Ford chairman Henry Ford III said his company was responding to forecasts that showed that today’s one billion cars could double, or even quadruple, by mid-century.
Among other technologies outlined by Ford for its future cars is what it calls perpendicular parking – parking at right-angles to the kerb – as an adjunct to its existing parallel-parking system.
Ford has already been beaten to the punch here, as Volkswagen already offers such a system on its Passat.
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