It seems that drivers here in the UK aren't the biggest fans of parking, with the everyday manoeuvre not only a recipe for shredded nerves, hazardous driving and in-car arguments but also a "significant contributor to repair bills for low-speed bumps and scrapes."
This is why Ford are designing a cross-traffic alert system with braking technology that not only offers an alternative wide-angle view of the rear of the vehicle via a rear wide-view camera on the in-car display but also detects people and objects about to appear behind the vehicle, warns the driver and then automatically brakes if the driver does not respond. There is also an enhanced park assist system that enables parallel or perpendicular parking at the push of a button.
“We’ve all become accustomed to the challenges of driving, but it remains one of the most demanding tasks most of us perform day in, day out,” said Torsten Wey, manager, Chassis & Safety Electronics,Ford of Europe. “Technology is already proving its potential to help make driving less stressful – and Ford’s investment in research and development is paying off by accelerating innovation to expand our portfolio of driver-assist technologies that deliver functionality and performance that customers will value.”
Ford has never been backwards in coming forwards when it comes to parking technology, already offering drivers Perpendicular Parking, Park-Out Assist, Side Parking Aid, and Cross Traffic Alert to enable drivers of Ford cars to take the stress out of parking.
According to Accident Exchange, in 2014, 22.78% of accidents recorded by them were car park-related, contributing (so The Daily Mail says ) to around £716 million in repair bills each year. And no wonder with car width increasing all the time as parking spaces stay the same size.
Dirk Gunia, supervisor, Driver Assist Electronics, Ford of Europe understands the problem, as 75% of drivers admit to feeling pressured and nervous when parking in front of other drivers in the same Daily Mail article: “Parking is one of the most stressful experiences behind the wheel, and drivers struggling to find suitable parking spaces in urban areas can have a knock-on effect for traffic flow as well as stress-levels. Technologies like our enhanced active park assist will help drivers feel confident about parking in spaces they might otherwise have considered too small.”
And this is where the Ford technology, developed at the Ford European Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany, comes into its own.
Enhanced active park assist can help a vehicle automatically enter and exit a parallel parking space by controlling steering, gear selection and forward and reverse motion - all at the push of a button. It also uses sensors to find suitable parking spaces as well as reverse the vehicle into a perpendicular space.
Cross Traffic Alert with Braking is being designed to detect motorcycles and bicycles by using radar sensors to monitor the area behind the vehicle, automatically applying the brakes if the driver does not react to the initial warning when backing out.
The Rear wide-view Camera displays a wide-angle view from the rear of the vehicle on the in-car display in a similar way to Ford’s Front Wide View Camera that you can experience at the front of the Ford Edge, Galaxy and S-MAX models. When reversing, it provides an additional view that enables drivers to see around corners as well as obstacles and objects approaching from behind the vehicle.
Further technologies are up and coming to Ford vehicles, including systems designed to help drivers steer around other vehicles to help avoid high speed collisions, and to warn drivers from travelling the wrong way down motorways.
Evasive Steering Assist has been designed by Ford to operate at city and highway speeds, using radar and a camera to detect slower moving and stationary vehicles ahead, activating if there is insufficient space to avoid a collision by braking only and the driver decides to take evasive action. The new technology builds on previous technology such as Forward Collision Warning and Pre-Collision Assist, which have already reduced some severe frontal collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians, or help drivers avoid some impacts altogether, and, as Peter Zegelaar, technical expert brake controls, Automated Driving, Ford of Europe, says:
“As soon as the driver tries to steer around a slower car in an emergency, evasive steering assist activates to help execute the evasive manoeuvre by making it easier to perform quick steering movements.”
The Wrong-way Alert driving warning system uses a windscreen mounted camera and information from the car’s navigation system to provide drivers with audible and visual warnings when driving through two “No Entry” signs on a motorway ramp. Initially used by Ford customers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the system builds on Traffic Sign Recognition, and helps stop drivers going the wrong way on a motorway when entering it from areas such as service stations.
Ford is also developing technology to help drivers such as Traffic Jam Assist which is designed to keep the vehicle centred in the lane and brakes and accelerate it to keep pace with the vehicle in front, and a Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System that widens the headlight beam at junctions and roundabouts after interpreting traffic signs.
Ford already offers many driver assistance systems already such as:
But we must be aware that all this technology is merely an AIDE to drivers and NOT the be-all-and-end-all of driving help. They do not make the car autonomous, as Edmund King OBE, President of the Automobile Association, reminds us.
“Drivers must remain alert and reactive when behind the wheel but driver assist technology can help,” he said. “There are great benefits in Ford developing new assist technologies which can aid the driver to avoid collisions."