New Ford tech to ‘spotlight’ hazards

21 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ford’s New Headlights Spot and Turn to Illuminate Hazards at Night.

Ford says it is developing new lighting technologies that will enable drivers to more easily identify potential hazards, including pedestrians, cyclists and animals. Cultivated at Germany’s Research and Innovation Centre, the Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting and Spot Lighting programs aim to ease the stress of driving on unlit roads.Aachen, Germany – For some years the cutting edge of car-safety development (the so-called “nanny files”) has been about saving drivers from themselves (and other drivers – see this morning’s Google story!) but now the emphasis seems to have shifted to helping drivers save themselves. Ford is currently perfecting a headlight system that uses infra-red cameras to illuminate unexpected curves and hazards on the road ahead that might be invisible to drivers otherwise. And the buzzword is lights, with several makers developing ‘smart’ headlights that shine where they’re needed and not where they will blind other road users.

The move reflects a growing relationship between cars and technology that seeks to improve driver safety both in the United States and around the world. “Auto safety has evolved from basic seatbelts and lighting to high-tech safety features that can help drivers avoid accidents altogether,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Thanks to continuing innovation, today’s vehicles are the safest in history and have contributed to year-over-year decreases in crash-related fatalities and injuries nationwide.” While motor vehicle accidents remain a leading cause of death in the US, traffic deaths have fallen by nearly a quarter between 2004 and 2014, the NHTSA reported in December – and safety improvements in vehicles are responsible for at least part of that decline, experts say. A deer-crossing warning, for instance, could trigger the car’s beams to widen, flooding the sides of the road with light, helping you to spot any courageous stags about to make a run for it. Advances include adaptive cruise control, which can sense vehicles ahead and adjust a driver’s speed to keep a safe following distance; automatic headlights that adjust based on a driver’s surroundings; forward collision warning systems, which use radar, laser, or camera sensors to detect when a crash is imminent and alerts the driver to act; and lane departure warning systems that let a driver know when he or she is drifting out of a lane.

When GPS and mapping data are available, the system will ensure that the headlights—which include an extra pair of spotlights that can be pivoted left and right—are pointed in the direction of an oncoming bend in the road, or used to better illuminate dips that might otherwise go unseen until the vehicle hits them. Or, signage for an upcoming roundabout notifies the car to spread its lights accordingly—in the direction you’re turning, and toward oncoming traffic.

They combine the company’s adaptive headlights and traffic sign recognition technologies, already available on production cars, to widen the beam when it identifies an upcoming intersection. The most significant change may have been the requirement in the late 2000s to begin phasing into all vehicles electronic stability control, which helps drivers keep command of the wheel and has proved effective in preventing rollover, The Wall Street Journal reported. “These technologies, and others yet to be developed, are changing how we drive and helping to make driving safer,” safety specialist Scott Humphrey wrote in a blog for insurance consulting firm Travelers.

The first, a camera-based advanced front-lighting system, widens the beam at junctions and roundabouts to improve illumination – and to give drivers a heads-up when a pedestrian, a cyclist, or a wild animal might be coming round the corner. More than that, it stores the information so it can do better next time, learning by repetition in a clear echo of how we get to know the roads we travel often. Do the new lighting improvements, which Ford promises will be “…available for customers in the near term” mean that drivers won’t have to pay attention to the road as much? Spot Lighting, meanwhile, is only in the pre-development phase at the German lab, where researchers are embedding infra-red cameras into the front grille of a car to locate and track people and large animals from up to 131 yards away, based on their body heat.

The improved headlights will give drivers even more things to be aware of when driving at night, which in turn will hopefully make them even safer motorists. Of course, improved road safety has as much, if not more, to do with compliance with safety laws and restrictions for young drivers as it does with vehicle safety technology. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles.

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