February 28, 2012
Ford Looks To The Future Of Connected Automobiles
Head of Ford Motor Company, Bill Ford Jr., has been thinking of the future and doesn´t like what he sees. Increasing traffic congestion and the proliferation of vehicles in developing countries will only lead to slower roads and tons of wasted fuel and resources.
Ford, looking at the technologies available, sees room for improvement in what it means to drive on public roads and thinks over the next decade, there´ll be fleets of autopilot cars cruising the highways around the world, writes SlashGear´s Shane McGlaun.
Google is already operating autonomous cars that use GPS and a host of sensors to navigate freely from point to point with no human interaction. Fleets of these autopilot cars, Ford imagines, could be on the road as early as 2017.
These autonomous cars are being looked at as more than just a convenience for drivers, they´re also being looked at as a way to reduce traffic congestion on highways and even to reduce distracted driving fatalities.
The number of cars on the nation´s highways is expected to rise from 1 billion to 4 billion by 2050 leading to more congestion. Mr. Ford talked about the future autonomous vehicles at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, reflecting a growing viewpoint among many auto executives and urbanists, reports Keith Barry for Wired.
“If we do nothing, we face the prospect of ℠global gridlock,´ a never-ending traffic jam that wastes time, energy and resources and even compromises the flow of commerce and healthcare,” Ford said in a statement before the address.
“The cooperation needed between the automotive and telecommunications industries will be greater than ever as we prepare for and manage the future. We will need to develop new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that building systems for vehicles to directly communicate with each other could reduce as many as 4.3 million crashes, or about 80 percent of accidents that don´t involve intoxicated drivers.
A German study found that just five cars per thousand that communicate with one another could significantly reduce gridlock. “Cars are becoming mobile communications platforms. Right now, there are a billion computing devices in the form of individual vehicles out on our roads,” Ford said, according to the Daily Mail.
“They´re largely unconnected from one another and the network. We´ll increasingly take advantage of the car as a rolling collection of sensors to reduce congestion and help prevent accidents.”
“I´m confident that we will see many of these advances on the road in this midterm period (between 2017 and 2025) because the early versions are already being designed, and in most cases, tested.”
Ford will unveil its B-Max family car at next week´s auto show in Geneva, which features technology to alert emergency services in an accident. It will go on sale in the UK in September.
Volvo is also working on next-generation vehicle to vehicle (V2V) technology and has successfully tested semi-autonomous “road trains,” and next year Germany will launch real-world tests of connected car technology using vehicles from three auto makers.
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