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Big brother puts the brakes on Ford

Riley Riley

Volvo has limited the speed of its cars to 180km/h and an increasing number of manufacturers offer special ‘kids’ keys that cap speed and other functions.

But now Ford is trialling the use of satellite-based technology that will literally, physically control the speed of the car you are driving.

The technology is being trialled in Germany using Ford Transit vans and could in future work with both Ford commercial and passenger vehicles, Ford says.

That means no more speeding and no more speeding fines, because your car will literally be unable to go faster than the current speed limit in the area that it is travelling.

It was just a question of time. You heard it here first . . .

The technology is based on “geofencing” – a virtual geographical boundary – that could one day do away with the need for speed limit signs completely.

As well as potentially making streets safer for other road users and pedestrians, Ford’s Geofencing Speed Limit Control system could help drivers avoid inadvertently incurring speeding fines and improve roadside appearances.

“Connected vehicle technology has the proven potential to help make everyday driving easier and safer to benefit everyone, not just the person behind the wheel,” Ford Erope’s Michael Huynh said.

“Geofencing can ensure speeds are reduced where – and even when – necessary to help improve safety and create a more pleasant environment.”

In Europe, up to 29 per cent of road fatalities are pedestrians and cyclists, depending on the country.

Setting up 30km/h zones is considered a key measures to reduce risk to pedestrians in urban areas, as drivers have more time to react and the impact speed is lower.

Driver assistance technologies such as Ford’s Intelligent Speed Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go already help ensure drivers do not exceed speed limits.

Ford’s Geofencing Speed Limit Control system is potentially more flexible and effective than on-board systems, and could in future be applied to Ford commercial and passenger vehicles.

Researchers are using two FordPro vehicles to analyse the impact of speed limiting in terms of improving traffic flow and reducing the risk of accidents.

Testing with the all-electric Ford E-Transit vans extends to all 30km/h zones in the centre of Cologne, in Germany, as well as in selected 50km/h and 30km/h zones elsewhere in the city.

The 12-month trial builds on other recent Ford research projects that endeavour to help improve road safety, including connected traffic light tech that could automatically go green to offer clearer routes for ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles, as well as the use of  specific speakers inside the vehicle to alert drivers to the direction from which people and objects are approaching.

Ford’s Local Hazard Information, introduced on Ford Puma in 2020, is also helping to make roads safer.

The connected technology, now on 500,000 Ford vehicles in Europe, alerted drivers to more than 35,000 broken down vehicles, both Ford and non-Ford, and warned drivers of more than 100,000 hazards ahead per month in Europe in 2021.

The trial is the result of a collaboration between the Ford City Engagement team, city officials in Cologne and Aachen, and Ford software engineers in Palo Alto, in the US.

Together with colleagues in Aachen, the Palo Alto engineers developed technology that connects the vehicle to the geofencing system for GPS tracking and data exchange.

The driver receives the information via the dashboard display cluster, with the new speed limit flashing below the current speed.

The vehicle automatically reduces speed in line with the geofenced zone.

The driver can override the system and deactivate the speed limit control at any time (but for how long).

In the future, Ford’s Geofencing Speed Limit Control system could enable drivers to set their own geofencing zones at speeds as low as 20km/h, including at depots and private facilities.

Speed limits could also be set dynamically, to take into account local hazards, temporary road works and the time of day.

The German Traffic Code has over 1000 types of road signs.

In the UK, it is estimated that the number of road signs has doubled in the last two decades, to around 4.6 million in total, with the Department for Transport requesting local councils remove unnecessary and unsightly signs.

Reducing the number of signs on the roads could go a long way towards decluttering our cities, with drivers able to concentrate on the roads rather than keep watch for signs.

The geofencing trial runs until March 2023 and is part of broader research initiatives putting pre-production and prototype Ford E-Transit vehicles to the test across a variety of intensive real-world operating scenarios, including postal, municipal and utilities services, as well as last mile and grocery delivery sectors within France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK.

Ford is also using geofencing technology to improve air quality in cities, ensuring that the Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid electric vehicle runs automatically in zero-emission electric-drive mode whenever the vehicle enters a low‑emission zone.


CHECKOUT: Volvo puts the brakes on speed

CHECKOUT: What happened when they turned off the speed cameras?


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