As part of the government-funded UK Autodrive program, Ford is exploring how choregraphing connected cars at junctions could one day enable drivers and passengers to enjoy free-flowing traffic and avoid the stress and unnecessary emissions caused by stop-start driving.
Ford is currently trialing a new way in which connected vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology could advise drivers to slow down or accelerate to avoid a collision with vehicles approaching from other directions. Being demonstrated this week on the streets of Milton Keynes, Ford’s intersection priority management (IPM) system aims to keep drivers driving and bring an end to unnecessary stops at junctions, both easing traffic flow and increasing safety and efficiency. Taking its inspiration from how humans negotiate their way through busy crowds, by slowing down or speeding up to avoid collisions, and without coming to a complete standstill, the IPM technology could help prevent intersection accidents, and also reduce emergency vehicle response times.
IPM uses V2V communications to coordinate with other vehicles in the vicinity and suggests optimum speeds that will allow cars to safely pass by each other at intersections without coming to a halt. For the trial, test cars have been equipped with V2V communication systems that broadcast the vehicles’ location, direction of travel and speed. The onboard IPM systems are able to identify an upcoming junction and the trajectory of other vehicles approaching it. It will then suggest an optimum speed for each vehicle as they approach the junction that will allow them pass through safely.
The vehicles in the trial have test drivers behind the wheel, but it is envisaged that autonomous vehicles could also benefit from the technology. Automating how vehicles negotiate junctions with each other in this way may mean that, one day, vehicles could pass through safely and efficiently without the need for traffic lights or road signs. While current autonomous vehicles operate independently using the sensor technologies and map data on board, V2V and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communications technologies could benefit the driverless cars of the future.
IPM builds on other connected-car technologies developed by Ford and its project partners as part of the £20m (US$26.3m) UK Autodrive program that is taking self-driving technologies from the test track to ‘real-world’ streets.
Among the technologies showcased during the two-year project that finishes this week are:
Intersection Collision Warning, which alerts drivers of potential accidents when approaching an intersection; Green light optimal speed advisory (GLOSA), which helps cars to synchronize with nearby traffic lights to help them avoid getting stuck on red; Collaborative Parking, which builds a crowd-sourced map of a car park’s available spaces; Emergency Vehicle Warning, where drivers are advised of the location and distance of an approaching emergency vehicle.
“We know that intersections and traffic lights can be a real bugbear for many drivers,” said Christian Ress, supervisor of driver assist technologies at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “With the connected car technology we have been demonstrating this week, we envisage a world where vehicles are more aware of each other and their environment, enabling intelligent cooperation and collaboration on the roads, and around junctions.”