On the road to fully-automated driving, Ford is exploring how connected cars can navigate intersections without stopping.
The idea arose from watching pedestrians, and how they adjust their pace when encountering others crossing their paths. Vehicles already have a similar mindset when it comes to cruise control. Similar to how people move in crowds moving in the same direction, adaptive cruise slows a vehicle down when coming up on a slower vehicle and picks the pace back up when the slower vehicle is out of the way.
Ford UK is now testing the technology to advise drivers to slow down or speed up when approaching an intersection in order to avoid a vehicle approaching from the right or left. Taken to the next level, the technology could theoretically negate the need for traffic lights, stop signs and even roundabouts.
The aim is to keep traffic flowing (research shows that UK drivers spend a total of two days every year waiting at intersections) and to improve safety at intersections, where road reports show 60% of all crashes happen. The side effects are easier navigation and improved response times for emergency vehicles, smoother flowing traffic and, as a result, reduced fuel consumption.
“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.”
The company is field testing its Intersection Priority Management (IPM) on the roads of Milton Keynes (about halfway between London and Birmingham), as part of the government-funded UK Autodrive program — the £20 million project (about $34.25 million Canadian) to apply self-driving and connected car technologies to real-world roads.
IPM uses vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications to coordinate optimum speed between vehicles approaching an intersection, suggesting that one vehicle speed up and another slow down so the two can pass through the intersection safely without the need to stop.
V2V software transmits a vehicle’s location, direction of travel and speed, with the information received and analyzed in order to suggest an optimum speed for the vehicle to the driver.
In the autonomous-driving world, the software would just automatically adjust the vehicle speed without the need for driver intervention.