• ‘Talking’ cars for safer roads

    by  • August 30, 2013 • Motoring News, Technology

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    2013 Ford Electric Brake Light graphic

    Technologies under development include a following vehicle being informed of an emergency braking situation, even if the lead vehicle is around a bend

    Connected vehicles provide ‘infinite’ opportunities, from car safety, to health, to the environment, Professor Pim van der Jagt has said.

    The managing director of Ford Research and Advanced Engineering in Europe said he expects that technological advances in the near future will allow vehicles to communicate with each other information about poor road conditions, the route of an emergency vehicle and signage violations.

    This could significantly reduce the number of road accidents, as well as reducing fuel consumption by allowing for more efficient driving.

    He also foresees in-car technology, currently in early development, that will be able to send data on the driver’s health, including heart rate, blood sugar level and blood pressure, to a medical centre.

    This has the potential to allow the car to determine if the driver is incapacitated and to safely drive itself to the hard shoulder while contacting the emergency services.

    He expects car-to-car communication via the cellular network to begin by 2017.

    However, he said the success of vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication depends on an agreed date for EU-wide deployment.

    Prof van der Jagt was in Dublin to speak at the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association automotive forum entitled Are we being driven to distraction by automotive technologies? .

    He also highlighted the challenges the automotive industry faces while trying to keep up with infotainment technology as the vehicle development cycle is years compared with the much shorter tech cycle.

    Ford’s answer to that issue is SYNC, which can be upgraded within the cycle of the vehicle.

    Its next addition is Applink, which will make its debut in the Ford EcoSport and the Ford Fiesta by the end of the year. This will include Spotify and Kaliki apps, with further partners to be announced at the IFA tech show.

    He was also keen to stress that the best technology features are voice controlled as they are less distracting to the driver.

    2013 IMWA forum pim van der jagt dr natasha merat gerry murphy tom dennigan

    Pr Pim van der Jagt, Dr Natasha Merat, IMWA chairman Gerry Murphy, and Tom Dennigan of event sponsor Continental Tyres at the IMWA automotive forum 2013

    He said: ‘A sine qua non of all of our research and development activity is that new technology has to contribute to improving the driver experience and consequently, road safety.

    ‘Any technology that does not pass this test would fall at this first hurdle and would not be developed further for use in cars.’

    Meanwhile, speaking at the same event Dr Natasha Merat from the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds said that while automation had the potential to reduce road accidents, a driver’s knowledge of the system and what everything means is key.

    She said: ‘Without a doubt, technology has contributed hugely to strides in improving road safety over the last number of decades, but we need to be careful that we don’t undo some of that progress by providing a dangerous level of information overload through the addition of a broad range of “attention-grabbing” technologies inside the car.’

    She added that driver distractions don’t just encompass the usual suspects of phones, music systems and SatNavs but also driver aid related dings and dashboard displays, that warn you when your fuel is low or lane departure/brake assist warnings, for example.

    She said: ‘The challenge for car makers is to ensure that all of these technologies work together to assist with the driving task, rather than distracting the driver’s attention.”

    Forum moderator and chairman of the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association, Gerry Murphy said: ‘I think the driver is ultimately responsible for ensuring he or she manages and limits the distraction potential of technology and any other external influences that would divert their attention from the important task at hand.’