Monday, August 12, 2013

Road Haulage Groups May Benefit from Intelligent Safety Systems

Along with Other Motor Manufacturers Ford Tests New Technologies
Shipping News Feature

GERMANY – WORLDWIDE – It is 150 years almost to the day since Henry Ford was born and doubtless the grand old man of vehicle development would approve of the latest work carried out in his family name. Road safety, particularly when heavy trucks or other commercial vehicles are involved, is considered paramount by all responsible sectors of the road haulage community. ‘Intelligent safety systems’ is a current ‘buzz’ phrase amongst those involved in vehicle development and besides ideas such as the ‘automatic convoy’ concept, illustrated in our article in January and which may seem fanciful to some sceptics, the latest research from Ford will perhaps strike a more realistic note, even with technophobes and the more cynical.

With the widespread use of satellite navigation and other GPS technology most modern vehicles carry enough computing and communications hardware to introduce systems which would prove useful to many, and potentially all, drivers. Ford has been trialling a link between the behaviour of one vehicle to those around it, with particular relevance when a truck obscures the view of those behind, rendering any potential hazards ahead invisible to the following drivers.

The new system transmits a wireless signal from a vehicle which is received and interpreted by following vehicles, if for example a car brakes suddenly but is out of sight of a following driver, round a bend or behind a larger vehicle, the following driver is alerted despite having no direct sight line to the incident. A light on the cars dashboard illuminates to warn of the potential danger.

In a video (viewable here) a Ford technician explains how the prior notification has been shown to mitigate or avoid what might otherwise be a serious incident. The project is just one of twenty or so trialled by Ford as part of the company’s Safe Intelligent Mobility Programme (SIM), a four year investigation hosted at the Ford European Research Centre in Aachen, Germany.

Other projects tested included Public Traffic Management, which provides exact traffic prognosis based on comprehensive information; this includes identifying likely traffic scenarios and their impact at the point in the journey when they are encountered rather than at the point of departure, and In-car Internet Access, which for example, enables the driver to receive information about free parking spaces or check traffic hotspots by receiving up-to-date pictures from traffic cameras. Also tested was an obstacle warning programme to help drivers avoid unseen dangers ahead even in poor light conditions. 

The effort put into the SIM programme demonstrates how seriously the motor manufacturer takes the new technologies, 500 test drivers logged 41,000 hours and covered over 1.6 million kilometres in 120 vehicles during the tests. SIM is a joint project by leading German automotive manufacturers, component suppliers, communication companies, research institutions and public authorities. The funding for the project was approximately €53 million, of which €30 million of direct project promotional support was provided by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology together with the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

The project was further supported by infrastructure investment from the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development as well as receiving active participation from the state of Hessen. The consortium involved representatives from all major interest groups, including Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, Opel, Volkswagen, Bosch, Continental, Deutsche Telekom, regional infrastructure operators and German Research Institutions (Technische Universität München und Berlin, Universität Würzburg, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft).

Photo: Two Ford vehicles testing the automatic brake warning system.