The self-driving car, commonly referred to as ‘autonomous car’, will be coming in future but it may take some time before it is a mainstream mass-produced vehicle that will be commonplace. However, some carmakers are already introducing technologies that free the driver of operating the car in certain conditions. For instance, self-parking and automatic braking in emergencies is already available, providing convenience and enhancing motoring safety.

Now Ford has developed something that will be useful in the congested traffic conditions most motorists have to endure much of their driving time. A new stop-and-go technology that will be offered in a Ford model in North America soon utilises on the existing adaptive cruise control feature to operate the car safely in slow-moving traffic – without driver control.

According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard released by Texas A&M Transportation Institute, America’s drivers spent 6.9 billion hours stuck in traffic in 2014, an average of nearly an hour a week wasted. Drivers fighting traffic in the most gridlocked cities – New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – found it significantly worse, losing nearly an hour and a half, sometimes more. This would certainly be the same in the cities of Malaysia.

Now, whether on a long-distance trip or the daily commute, Ford’s adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology reduces the stress although it can’t do much about time wasted. Using dedicated steering wheel buttons, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go allows drivers to set cruise control speed and following distance from the vehicle ahead. The semi-autonomous technology can automatically adjust the set speed for comfortable travel – much like a human driver would – bringing the car to a full stop when traffic halts. If the car has to stop for more than 3 seconds, the driver can tap the resume button or accelerator and the car returns to its preset speed. This assures the driver is paying attention in the event of a long pause in traffic.

Adaptive Cruise Control will reduce the car's speed from what has been preset if another vehicle is detected directly in front, maintaining a safe distance at a lower speed. Now, an additional feature using the same hardware will also bring the car to a stop when necessary

Adaptive cruise control employs a combination of sensors and software. When activated, the technology uses an advanced radar-and-camera based system, which reads the road every 50 milliseconds – tracking traffic and adjusting the cruise control speed according to traffic flow. In slow traffic, with minimal driver input, the car can automatically brake itself to a stop, then resume travel up to set speed and following distance.

“When testing this system, we travelled to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, heading straight for the worst possible congestion,” said Scott Lindstrom, Ford Driver-assist Technologies Manager. “It was important for us to test this system under conditions the average driver encounters every workday.”

Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go is a great tool for dealing with traffic, but for unpredictable moments Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, part of the overall technology, employs the same sensors and camera to watch the road ahead for potential collisions with a vehicle or pedestrian. When a situation is detected, the system provides a visual and audible warning to the driver, pre-charges the brakes and, if necessary, can then automatically apply up to full braking force. This can help reduce the severity of, or even eliminate, some frontal collisions.

The new technology Ford has developed joins 20 driver-assist technologies that are slowly being made available in Ford models. The latest Stop-and-go technology will be added to three new Ford models within the next 2 years.

[Chips Yap]

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