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Ford developing autonomous technologies to ease stresses of congestion

With a recent study showing that drivers in Europe spend an average of 30 hours every year stuck in traffic jams, Ford is currently developing technology that could make driving in congestion less stressful. The company’s Traffic Jam Assist feature aids the driver by keeping the vehicle centered in the lane, and brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front of it. The system is among a range of semi-autonomous driver assistance technologies that Ford is developing, as it moves toward the eventual introduction of fully-autonomous vehicles. Activated at the push of a button when a traffic jam is encountered, Traffic Jam Assist identifies the position of vehicles in front using a grille-mounted radar, and the location of lane markings using a front-facing camera behind the windscreen. The driver can take over at any time by using the pedals, the steering wheel or the indicators. The system also regularly monitors the driver’s interaction with the steering wheel, issuing acoustic and visual warnings if it detects a lack of steering input.

Further semi-autonomous technology systems being developed by Ford include: help for drivers to stay centered in their lane; a cruise control system that enables drivers to easily resume their desired speed, even after the vehicle has come to a complete stop; and a remote control parking system. The Traffic Jam Assist is made possible by the combination of two technologies that are also in development, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, and Lane Centering Aid. The first, is designed to use radar and camera information to detect the location and distance of vehicles ahead. It reduces the speed for slower vehicles and then resumes the desired speed when traffic clears. Available for vehicles with automatic transmission, the operating range now enables drivers to easily resume their speed after a complete halt. Building on Ford’s existing Lane Keeping Aid technology, Lane Centering Aid assists the driver to keep the vehicle in the middle of its lane.

Remote Park Assist builds on Active Park Assist, available on current Ford vehicles, and Fully Assisted Parking Aid, the next-generation parking technology, which controls steering, gear selection and forward and reverse motion to facilitate push-button parking. Vehicle sizes have increased by up to 25% over the last 40 years, while in many cases garages and parking spaces have remained constant. The new system Remote Park Assist will enable drivers to park perpendicularly in narrow garages and crowded underground parking garages without being in the vehicle, helping to optimize parking spaces in ever-more crowded urban areas. The technology could help drivers struggling to get children or shopping out of the car after parking in a tight parking space adjacent to other vehicles. Using a special key fob, the driver will be able to remotely start the engine and shift gears, from a better vantage point, standing near the vehicle.

December 7, 2015

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