Sustainability 2011/12

Vehicle Safety

Case Study: Connected Vehicles

Imagine a future in which vehicles “talk” to each other – and to stoplights, other transportation infrastructure and even pedestrians and bicycles – in a way that might have seemed like science-fiction fantasy just a few decades ago. In this future, vehicle technologies will allow cars to communicate wirelessly with one another using advanced Wi-Fi signals or dedicated short-range communications on secured channels. The Wi-Fi-based radio system will allow 360 degrees of detection, so it can “look” around corners for potentially dangerous situations, such as when a driver’s vision is obstructed.

Such connected vehicles could warn drivers if there is a risk of collision when changing lanes or approaching a stationary or parked vehicle, or if another driver loses control. Drivers also could be alerted if their vehicle is on a 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. If vehicles approaching from opposite directions were communicating with each other, they could warn the drivers of each other, potentially avoiding head-on collisions.

By potentially reducing collisions, connected vehicles could also ease traffic delays, which could save drivers both time and fuel, thereby reducing their environmental impacts. Traffic congestion also could be avoided through a network of connected vehicles and infrastructure that processes traffic and road information. A traffic management center would send this information to connected vehicles, which could then suggest less-congested routes to drivers and other connected travelers.

These types of systems could have real safety benefits, potentially helping in a significant fraction of police-reported vehicle-to-vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers, according to a U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report.

Already, Ford has unveiled an array of accident avoidance and driver assist technologies that use radars and cameras to warn the driver of a potentially dangerous situation, and in some cases provide assistance to the driver. And we are taking part in numerous research projects – on our own and in cooperation with other companies and government bodies – to develop and prove out other technologies.

Ford Technologies

Driver assist technologies introduced by Ford in recent years are beginning to show what is possible in the realm of connected vehicles. Among the first of these technologies was Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), which helps drivers maintain a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front of them. With ACC, a radar module is mounted at the front of the vehicle and used to measure the gap and closing speed to the vehicle ahead. The system automatically adjusts the speed of the car to help maintain a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front. Radar-based ACC is available on a wide range of Ford and Lincoln models.

Other key technologies that build on the functionality of forward-looking radar and cameras include Lane Keeping System and Collision Warning with Brake Support, which are discussed on the Accident Avoidance and Driver Assist Technologies page.

Ford’s Lane Keeping System

We are now rapidly expanding our commitment to connected vehicles that can wirelessly talk to each other. In 2011, in fact, we doubled our investment in connected vehicles, forming a new 20-member task force of scientists and engineers to explore the technology’s broader possibilities and become the first automaker to build prototype vehicles for demonstrations across the U.S. We have also initiated a series of research and advanced projects to begin the rollout of connected vehicle technologies into our product lineup.

In the U.S., NHTSA is expected to decide in 2013 whether to initiate a rulemaking process for vehicle-to-vehicle technologies that could require these systems in new vehicles starting in some future model year. Ford’s goal is not to just wait for governmental action in this area, but to accelerate the vehicle connectivity landscape to be a leader in smart, safe and eco-friendly customer solutions.

Collaborative Research

To help achieve this, we take part in collaborative active-safety research with other automotive companies. In Europe, for example, the “Safe Intelligent Mobility – Test Field Germany” (known as “simTD” for short) is investigating vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications under everyday conditions in a large-scale field operational test. In simTD, 120 vehicles are outfitted with V2V and V2I communications systems, and roadside units are set up in select locations around the test area. Both are also linked up to traffic control centers. During the test, participating drivers may, for example, receive information about a traffic jam or road accident, so they can choose an alternate route. More than 100 drivers are actively participating and collecting data by completing specific driving tasks. Ford is providing test vehicles for the project, as well as leading the development of the Electronic Emergency Brake Light system, which warns the driver of a heavily braking vehicle ahead. The simTD project is taking place near Frankfurt, Germany, and will run through 2013. It is a joint effort with other vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, telecommunication providers and research institutes, as well as public authorities. It receives partial funding from the German government.

Ford is also contributing to the European harmonization and standardization of wireless communication systems and applications within the framework of the DRIVE C2X project, which is co-funded by the European Commission. DRIVE C2X is the acronym for “DRIVing implementation and Evaluation of C2X communication technology in Europe” (C2X refers to “car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure” communication, and means the same as V2V and V2I). This project kicked off in January 2011 and brings together more than 40 stakeholders, such as vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, universities and public authorities from all over Europe. Within the framework of DRIVE C2X, field operational tests in a real-world environment will be conducted in seven test sites across Europe.

Both simTD and DRIVE C2X are working to pave the way for the full deployment of V2V and V2I systems in Europe, and will provide Ford with some of the data needed to develop next-generation safety and mobility features.

In January 2010, a consortium of 29 partners – led by the Ford European Research Center in Aachen, Germany – joined forces in the Accident Avoidance by Active Intervention of Intelligent Vehicles (interactIVe) European research project. This consortium seeks to support the development and implementation of accident avoidance systems, and consists of seven automotive manufacturers, six suppliers, 14 research institutes and three other stakeholders. The European Commission is covering more than half of the €30 million budget.

During the planned 42-month duration of interactIVe, the partners are testing the performance of implemented safety systems through active intervention, including autonomous braking and steering in critical situations, with the aim of avoiding collisions or at least mitigating impact severity in accidents.

In 2011 we completed another major European research project (called EuroFOT) that served as a large-scale field operational test of the real-world impact of accident avoidance systems. Under the EU’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7) for research and technological development, this project joined together 28 partners – including vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, universities and research centers. More than 1,500 cars and trucks were equipped with eight technologies, along with advanced data-collection capabilities. This allowed a thorough evaluation of the new technologies for safety, efficiency and driver comfort, in real-world scenarios and with ordinary drivers. The project had a total budget of €22 million and was led by the Ford research center in Aachen, Germany. It included 100 Ford vehicles.

Finally, it’s important to note that much of our work in the area of accident avoidance and connected vehicles builds on research conducted by the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership (CAMP), which was launched in 1995 by Ford, General Motors and the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium (VIIC). The purpose of CAMP and VIIC has been to conduct precompetitive accident avoidance research with other vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and the U.S. government.

VIIC, a consortium of nine vehicle manufacturers (including Ford, BMW, Chrysler, GM, Honda, Daimler, Nissan, Toyota and VW-Audi), worked with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to address the key policy issue for V2X technology for both safety and mobility applications. And within CAMP, the Vehicle Safety Communications Two (VSC-2) Consortium, which included Ford, GM, Toyota, Daimler and Honda, worked with the DOT on projects to develop safety applications that utilize vehicle communications. CAMP VSC-2 successfully completed projects that demonstrated the basic feasibility of wireless vehicle-to-vehicle technology and evaluated several applications.

CAMP has now formed a VSC-3 Consortium with Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota and VW-Audi to continue work on V2V communications for safety applications. This consortium is being funded by the DOT to complete all of the precompetitive work necessary for a deployment decision on vehicle safety communications in 2013. The consortium conducted driver clinics of V2V safety systems around the U.S. in 2011. In 2012, Ford will participate in a model deployment of V2V systems in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and will supply eight fully integrated vehicles for a year-long test. The model deployment will be the world’s largest test ever of connected vehicles and will include passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, transit vehicles and aftermarket connected-vehicle devices, along with equipped infrastructure.