Ford intelligent vehicle technology
Ford intelligent vehicle technology; photo courtesy Ford Motor Company. Click image to enlarge

Manufacturer’s web site
Ford Motor Company

By Paul Williams

Recently, was invited to Dearborn, Michigan, for a demonstration of Ford’s latest “vehicle-to-vehicle” crash avoidance technology. Not yet available in consumer vehicles, but with completion of the research phase expected by 2013, and application shortly thereafter, the latest system is notable for its low cost and ability to be retrofitted to older cars. Ford is the first automaker to build prototype vehicles for demonstrations across the U.S.

Basically, the system allows vehicles to wirelessly “talk” to each other — at distances up to 300-500 metres — alerting the driver to situations where a collision is imminent if countermeasures are not taken. Estimates are that such technology could help in 81 per cent of police-reported light-vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers, according to a (US) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report.

“Ford believes intelligent vehicles that talk to each other through advanced Wi-Fi are the next frontier of collision avoidance innovations that could revolutionize the driving experience and hold the potential of helping reduce many crashes,” said Sue Cischke, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.

Ford explains that the technology allows vehicles to electronically (and temporarily) connect using advanced Wi-Fi signals, or dedicated short-range communications. Unlike radar-based safety features, which identify hazards within a direct line of sight, the Wi-Fi-based radio system allows full-range, 360-degree detection of potentially dangerous situations, such as when a driver’s vision is obstructed.

Two or more vehicles equipped with this technology will become “aware” of each other once they’re in range, and they’ll be able to calculate speed and direction of travel based on the signals that are received.

In practice, what this means is that if you are approaching an intersection where an obscured vehicle is about to cross your path, you will be alerted to its presence even though you may not be able to see it. Likewise, should you be approaching the crest of a hill, and a vehicle is in your lane heading towards you (perhaps passing improperly), you will receive a warning that will enable you to take evasive action. Many similar situations can be imagined, such as alerting drivers if there is a risk of collision when changing lanes, approaching a stationary or parked vehicle, or if another driver loses control.

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