Ford Motor Company is hosting Europe’s most influential safety leader to discuss how to bring intelligent vehicle technology to global customers quicker and more affordably. Ford is leading research and working with automakers and safety leaders globally on a standardized platform for the advanced wireless systems that can allow vehicles to “talk” to each other to reduce crashes and congestion.
Dr. Andre Seeck, president and chairman of the board of directors, European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), will tour Ford’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn and participate in discussions centered on intelligent vehicle research and other advanced safety technologies the company plans to introduce globally. “Intelligent vehicle technology has the potential to significantly reduce crashes. We want to work with Ford and others who are leading development of this technology to harmonize the underlying standards and requirements on a global level,” said Seeck.
Ford researchers are developing advanced crash avoidance systems that use GPS technologies and advanced Wi-Fi® signals, or dedicated short-range communications, on a secured channel allocated by the Federal Communications Commission to create intelligent vehicles that communicate with each other in traffic and help drivers avoid or mitigate crashes. In addition to serving as president of Euro NCAP, Seeck also is head of Vehicle Technology with the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt).
“Dr. Seeck has strong influence on safety globally, so we are excited to work with him on this next frontier of safety,” said Jim Vondale, director, Ford Automotive Safety Office. “Ford has been a pioneer in safety technology for many decades. Now we are leading the development of crash avoidance technologies, including our intelligent vehicle research, to help drivers avoid crashes in the first place.” Ford led the industry in developing new safety technologies, including seat belts in the 1950s, airbags in the 1980s and today with the industry’s first rear inflatable safety belts to help protect occupants in crashes.
Ford is partnering with other automakers and governments globally to create a common language that ensures all vehicles can talk to each other based on a common communication standard. Ford and other global vehicle manufacturers need harmonized standards in order to support their global vehicle platforms and to develop reliable, cost-effective wireless systems.
In the U.S., this public-private partnership will include the world’s first government-sponsored driving clinics beginning in summer 2011, for which the company will contribute two prototype Ford Taurus sedans. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Programs Office will sponsor the research conducted by a coalition of automakers organized by the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), which is a joint research group founded by Ford and General Motors. The partnership is working to develop inter-operability standards in advance of completing the research phase in 2013.
In Germany, Ford is collaborating on a wireless research project with other automakers and the government in an effort to address congestion-related traffic safety issues. The Safe and Intelligent Mobility-Test Field Germany research project, which runs through 2012, is a 400-vehicle field test to evaluate feasibility and scalability of wireless systems in the real world. “We must develop these ITS standards now while the technology is being researched and developed or we will end up with a variety of standards and vehicles that cannot talk to each other from region to region,” Vondale said. “Failure to develop globally harmonized standards would delay deployment, decrease reliability and unnecessarily increase costs.”
Vondale has been appointed by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to represent automakers on the ITS Program Advisory Committee. Mike Shulman, technical leader, Ford Research and Innovation, leads the government-industry technical partnership as program manager for CAMP.
After a decade of research, Ford announced earlier this year an accelerated development of its intelligent vehicle work, doubling its research investment and convening a new 20-member task force – consisting of company planners, engineers and scientists from around the world with expertise in safety, eco-mobility, infotainment and driver conveniences. The goal is to define the next 10 years of safety, convenience and driver assistance, and strengthen the company’s position as the global industry leader in connected vehicle technology.
“While there are challenges ahead, the foundation of these smarter vehicles is advanced versions of technologies that are pervasive – Wi-Fi and crash avoidance systems that Ford has pioneered in mainstream vehicles today,” said Paul Mascarenas, Chief Technical Officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation. “Intelligent vehicles could help warn drivers of numerous potential dangers such as a car running a red light but blocked from the view of a driver properly entering the intersection.” 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.
For example, drivers could be alerted if their vehicle is on path to collide with another vehicle at an intersection, when a vehicle ahead stops or slows suddenly or when a traffic pattern changes on a busy highway. The systems also could warn drivers if there is a risk of collision when changing lanes, approaching a stationary or parked vehicle, or if another driver loses control.
By reducing crashes, intelligent vehicles could ease traffic delays, which would save drivers both time and fuel costs. Congestion also could be avoided through a network of intelligent vehicles and infrastructure that would process real-time traffic and road information and allow drivers to choose less congested routes According to Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) 2010 Urban Mobility Report, traffic congestion continues to worsen in American cities of all sizes, annually wasting nearly 3.9 billion gallons of fuel in 2009 and costing the average Los Angeles commuter $1,464. Leading factors in traffic delays are caused by accidents, breakdowns and road debris, TTI maintains.
“We are not far from the day when vehicles will operate like mobile devices with four wheels, constantly exchanging information and communicating with our environment to do things like shorten commute times, improve fuel economy and generally help us more easily navigate life on the road,” said Mascarenas. “A smart network of intelligent vehicles has the potential to benefit drivers in many ways.”