By now we were supposed to have flying cars, right? Maybe that will never happen but one prediction of the future is beginning to become true – self-driving cars. When fully implemented self-driving cars MIGHT be a big positive win for green transportation. Today, Ford announced a big step towards fully autonomous self-driving cars by improving their driver assist features.
The possibility is that with a significant number of self-driving cars, highway traffic could be far more efficient and safer than it is today. Cars will be able to drive safely with tiny distances between cars, letting there be more cars per square mile of road surface. That means an erasure of gridlock and traffic congestion. How? The computers in self-driving cars can react to the unexpected quickly enough that cars can be packed tightly together.
Our world is increasingly being crushed the pavement required for highways, parking lots, and other infrastructure required for cars. It will be a huge win for the environment to reduce the land required to park and operate our vehicles.
While the complete self-driving car vision is a few years off – the car makers are taking steps in this direction.
Ford Motors had already begun selling cars with driver assist features, including a parking assistant.
At the LA Auto Show this year, Ford unveiled the Ford Edge Concept containing advanced driver assist features that previews “a future of semi- and fully autonomous driving options, delivering tomorrow’s technology today.” The features shown “hint at a future offering even more intelligent and capable vehicles from Ford” and use “sensor-based technologies” which “form the building blocks for the future of automated driving, and will help make driving safer and more efficient.”
“The rate of change in vehicle technology right now is unprecedented,” noted Raj Nair, Ford group vice president of global product development. “Our engineers around the world are advancing the systems that will ultimately help make drivers smarter, safer and more efficient. From advanced engine systems to collision avoidance and automated driving systems, Ford will continue to lead in delivering the technologies consumers want and need.”
A new fully assisted parking aid lets the car owner, whether inside or outside the car, press a button and the car will park itself. This builds on the Active Park Assist feature Ford already sells, which can ease the stress of parallel parking by using sensors and the
steering system to guide a vehicle into a parking spot; the driver
controls the gas and brake pedals. The new system can find a perpendicular parking spot, using sensors, then automatically park the car in the spot. Because it can be activated from outside the car, the car can be parked in tight spots without inconveniencing the car owner.
Another feature is the ability to detect slow-moving or stationary objects in the lane ahead. If the driver fails to steer or brake following the warnings, the system will automatically steer and brake the vehicle to avoid a collision.
Adaptive steering is another new feature, which changes the steering response in relation to the vehicle speed. At low speeds the driver won’t have to turn the steering wheel as far, making slow speed maneuvering easier to do.
Other driver assist technologies that Ford currently sells are:
Active park assist, which can ease the stress of parallel parking by using sensors and the steering system to guide a vehicle into a parking spot; the driver controls the gas and brake pedals. Available on 12 Ford models today
Lane-Keeping System, which uses a forward-facing camera that can scan the road surface for lane markings. The system can evaluate if the vehicle is drifting out of its lane and then alert the driver by vibrating the steering wheel. If the driver does not respond to the vibrations, the system provides steering torque to nudge the vehicle back toward the center of the lane. Available on 11 Ford models today
Adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, which uses radar to detect moving vehicles immediately ahead, and can modify cruising speed if necessary. Available on 10 Ford models today
Blind Spot Information System, which uses radar sensors in the rear corners that monitor the spaces next to and just behind the vehicle. On the road, these sensors trigger a warning light in the mirror when there is another vehicle in the driver’s blind spot. Available on 13 Ford models today
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