Ford Motors, an American car company that was on the brink of extinction just a few short years ago, is experiencing new growth thanks to its focus on fuel-efficient vehicles.
The company is also carving out a name for itself in the hybrid and electric vehicle markets, with the new Focus Electric poised to hit markets soon.
In an effort to stay ahead of the competition when it comes to imagining the future of transportation, Ford has been quietly pushing the boundaries of built-in vehicle intelligence. Just days ago, the company demonstrated its latest advancements in vehicle-to-vehicle communications at the final CoCarX (Co-operative Cars Extended) in Germany.
Ford’s technology allows vehicles to talk wirelessly with one another using advanced Wi-Fi signals, or dedicated short-range communications, 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.
“The notion of talking cars may immediately bring to mind thoughts of children’s movies, but the reality is that vehicles capable of speaking the same language could result in significant safety and convenience benefits for drivers,” says Christian Ress, connectivity technical expert, global driver assistance and active safety.
Ford is partnering with other automakers and 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.
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 Paul Mascarenas, vice president, Ford Research and Innovation and chief technical officer. “A smart network of intelligent vehicles has the potential to benefit drivers in many ways.”