Ford is Expanding its Commitment to Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications

Posted by at 10:43 am on January 26, 2011

Ford is aggressively accelerating its commitment to wirelessly connected intelligent vehicles (AKA vehicle-to-vehicle communications).  Ford is becoming the first automaker to build prototype vehicles for demonstrations across the U.S. and has doubled its intelligent vehicle investment in 2011.  Ford’s demonstration vehicles will hit the road this spring, starting at major technology hubs across the country.

After a decade of research, Ford plans 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 convenience – to accelerate development of intelligent vehicles with features that provide a range of benefits to consumers.

An October National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on the potential safety benefits of vehicle-to-vehicle communications estimates that intelligent vehicles could help in as many as 4,336,000 police-reported, light-vehicle crashes annually, or approximately 81 percent of all light-vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers. Experts say intelligent vehicles could be on the road in five to 10 years.

How it works

Ford’s  technology allows vehicles to talk wirelessly with one another using advanced Wi-Fi signals on a secured channel allocated by the Federal Communications Commission. 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.

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.

“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 Cache, group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering.
Ford hits the gas on vehicle communications

Put More into R&D

Ford also is doubling its intelligent vehicle research investment, building on the company’s SYNC and MyFord Touch innovations. 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, vice president, Research and Advanced Engineering and chief technical officer. “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.”

Making it a Standard

Ford is partnering with other automakers, the federal government, as well as local and county road commissions to create a common language that ensures all vehicles can talk to each other based on a common communication standard.

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 DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will head the research, continuing to coordinate with a coalition of automakers organized by the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), which is a joint research group headed by Ford and General Motors. The partnership is working to develop inter-operability standards in advance of completing the research phase in 2013.

Beyond Safety, Reduce Traffic Delays and Other Driver Issues

Congestion is another traffic issue which could be addressed by this system. Traffic jams 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 commuter $808 in additional fuel. Leading factors in traffic delays are caused by accidents, breakdowns and road debris, TTI maintains.

“The day is not far off when our 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.

Many of Ford’s current technologies show how intelligent vehicles will be able to help drivers. For example, features that alert drivers to approaching hazards, such as Ford’s collision warning with brake support and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert rely on radar sensors to detect vehicles or objects close to the vehicle.

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