Published June 26, 2012
By Philippe Crowe
Ford Motor Company is researching and developing intelligent, next-generation driving technologies designed to help address traffic jams and other future mobility challenges that come with rapid urbanization and population growth around the world.
Ford’s early prototypes of two such technologies – Traffic Jam Assist and an advanced version of active park assist – are designed to interact with a vehicle’s surroundings, reduce driver stress and help reduce traffic gridlock.
Traffic Jam Assist
Traffic Jam Assist is an intelligent driving technology that Ford is developing for the mid-term. It uses radar and camera technology to help a vehicle keep pace with other vehicles in traffic and provide automated steering control to stay in the current lane, reducing driver stress and potentially improving vehicle flow.
Individual simulation studies have found that where 25 percent of vehicles on a stretch of road are equipped to automatically follow the traffic ahead, journey times can be reduced by 37.5 percent and delays reduced by 20 percent – saving millions of gallons of fuel each year.
Traffic Jam Assist has the potential to follow the traffic ahead while maintaining lane position in environments where there are no pedestrians, cyclists or animals, and where lanes are clearly marked.
Many of the sensing technologies required to deliver Traffic Jam Assist already are available on current Ford models including the Focus, Escape and Fusion.
The developing technology would be able to respond to changing traffic situations ahead and communicate any developments to the driver. Traffic Jam Assist would also incorporate features to help ensure the driver remains alert and in contact with the vehicle controls, even when the system is active. It could also be overridden at any time.
In the near term, Ford plans to further develop its active park assist technology, a popular feature that allows drivers to parallel park without touching the wheel. Ford is adding perpendicular parking to the parallel parking maneuvers already possible.
The enhanced system would harness the technologies introduced with active park assist. It uses ultrasonic sensors to identify suitable parking spaces, for width rather than length, and then steers the vehicle into them using electric power-assisted steering (EPAS).
Active park assist is activated by pressing a center console button. When a suitable space is detected, the system will advise the driver to stop with an audible and visual warning. The driver will then be told to put the vehicle into reverse gear and operate brakes and clutch, if needed, while the car controls the steering wheel.
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Perpendicular parking functionality would use the vehicle’s rear parking distance control sensors to monitor for obstructions not seen by the driver when backing into the space.
Where there is insufficient space to complete the maneuver in one attempt, the system might ask the driver to shift the vehicle into forward and reverse as necessary. Once the vehicle is perfectly parked, the driver gets a finish signal.