Stopping at junctions could be a thing of the past in the future.
Nobody enjoys being stuck in traffic waiting at a red light, so Ford is trialling technology that could make stopping at junctions a thing of the past. According to the automaker, the average driver spends two days waiting at traffic lights. They are also the cause of up to 60 percent of road traffic accidents, despite being designed to prevent them. As well as saving time, Ford believes that avoiding stopping at junctions could also save fuel, as drivers avoid braking and accelerating away from the lights.
To imagine what a world without traffic lights would be like, Ford is testing new connected car technology called Intersection Priority Management on the streets of Milton Keynes in the UK as part of the government-funded Autodrive program. The system uses vehicle-to-vehicle communications to coordinate with other vehicles in the vicinity and suggests optimum speeds that will allow cars to safely pass by each other at intersections without stopping. Ford says it was inspired by how people negotiate their way through busy crowds – people slow down or speed up to avoid bumping into each other but don't stop moving forward.
"We know that intersections and traffic lights can be a real bugbear for many drivers," said Christian Ress, supervisor of Driver Assist Technologies at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "With the connected car technology we have been demonstrating this week, we envisage a world where vehicles are more aware of each other and their environment, enabling intelligent cooperation and collaboration on the roads – and around junctions."
For the trial, test cars were equipped with V2V communication systems that broadcast the vehicles' location, direction of travel and speed. The onboard IPM systems can identify an upcoming junction and the trajectory of other vehicles approaching it. It will then suggest an optimum speed for each vehicle as they approach the junction to allow them to pass through safely. While the vehicles in the trial had human drivers behind the wheel, Ford says the technology could also be applied to fully autonomous vehicles, which could potentially eliminate the need for traffic lights and road signs in the future.