- Ford unveils automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle to test and advance its Blueprint for Mobility, which envisions a future of autonomous functionality and advanced technologies after 2025
- Developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan and State Farm®, the vehicle builds on more than a decade of Ford automated driving research
- Ford is among the leaders in offering driver-assist technologies in its vehicles on the road today, including Ford Fusion, Ford Escape and Ford Explorer
Taking the next step in its Blueprint for Mobility, Ford today – in conjunction with the University of Michigan and State Farm® – revealed a Ford Fusion Hybrid automated research vehicle that will be used to make progress on future automated driving and other advanced technologies.
The result of an ongoing project that builds on more than a decade of Ford’s automated driving research, the Fusion Hybrid automated vehicle will test current and future sensing systems and driver-assist technologies. Ford’s goal is to advance development of new technologies with its supplier partners so these features can be applied to the company’s next generation of vehicles.
“The Ford Fusion Hybrid automated vehicle represents a vital step toward our vision for the future of mobility,” said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “We see a future of connected cars that communicate with each other and the world around them to make driving safer, ease traffic congestion and sustain the environment. By doing this, Ford is set to have an even greater impact in our next 100 years than we did in our first 100.”
Today’s Ford vehicles already have technology that enables them to park themselves, understand a driver’s voice commands, detect dangerous driving situations and assist with emergency braking. With these technologies and others that one day could allow a person to be driven to a destination, the driver always will need to be in control of the wheel if necessary.
“In the future, automated driving may well help us improve driver safety and manage issues such as traffic congestion and global gridlock, yet there are still many questions that need to be answered and explored to make it a long-term reality,” said Raj Nair, group vice president, Ford global product development. “With the automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research project, our goal is to test the limits of full automation and determine the appropriate levels for near- and mid-term deployment.”
The automated Fusion Hybrid will serve as the research platform to develop potential solutions for these longer-term societal, legislative and technological issues raised by a future of fully automated vehicles.
The Fusion Hybrid research vehicle builds on driver-in-control studies conducted in Ford’s VIRTTEX driving simulator. Using VIRTTEX, Ford researchers study how to merge the capabilities of human and automated drivers to create a seamless, integrated experience.
Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility
Last year at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Bill Ford outlined Ford Motor Company’s Blueprint for Mobility – a plan that describes what the automaker believes transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there.
Today, Ford is working on improving technology already used in vehicles on the road. This includes functions that alert drivers to traffic jams and accidents, and technologies for parking and for driving in slow-moving traffic.
In the mid-term, vehicle-to-vehicle communications will begin to enter into the mainstream. This will include some autopilot capabilities, such as vehicle “platooning,” where vehicles traveling in the same direction sync up their movements to create denser driving patterns.
In the longer-term, vehicles will have fully autonomous navigation and parking. They will communicate with each other and the world around them, and become one element of a fully integrated transportation ecosystem. Personal vehicle ownership also will change as new business models develop. The benefits include improved safety, reduced traffic congestion and the ability to achieve major environmental improvements.
Tomorrow’s technology, today
The Ford Fusion Hybrid was chosen as the test platform for the new research effort because it is among the leaders in offering the most advanced driver-assist technologies in its class.
These technologies include Blind Spot Information System, active park assist, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support. These vehicle sensing systems, offered on many Ford vehicles today, are the building blocks for the future of fully automated driving.
In North America, these technologies can be found on Ford Focus, C-MAX hybrids, Fusion, Taurus, Escape, Explorer and Flex. In Europe, these technologies are available on Ford C-MAX, Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy.
“Products such as Ford Fusion Hybrid give us a head start in the development of automated features,” said Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president, Ford research and innovation. “Our Blueprint for Mobility aligns the desired outcomes of our work in automated functionality with the democratization of driver-assist technology found on today’s lineup of Ford products.”
Ford’s Fusion Hybrid research vehicle is unique in that it first uses the same technology found in Ford vehicles in dealer showrooms today, then adds four scanning infrared light sensors – named LiDAR (for Light Detection And Ranging) – that scan the road at 2.5 million times per second. LiDAR uses light in the same way a bat or dolphin uses sound waves, and can bounce infrared light off everything within 200 feet to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment.
The sensors can track anything dense enough to redirect light – whether stationary objects, or moving objects such as vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. The sensors are so sensitive they can sense the difference between a paper bag and a small animal at nearly a football field away.
Developing the necessary infrastructure to support a sustainable transportation ecosystem will require the collaboration of many partners across multiple industries. State Farm and the University of Michigan’s robotics and automation research team are critical to creating the visionary research project.
Ford’s work with others on the future of mobility is longstanding. Ford was an active participant in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-controlled autonomous vehicle challenges in 2004, 2005 and 2007, the year Ford extended its efforts to include the University of Michigan.
While Ford is responsible for developing unique components allowing for the vehicle to function at high levels of automation, the University of Michigan – under the direction of faculty members Ryan Eustice and Edwin Olson – is leading in development of sensor-based technologies. The sensors aid in the logic and virtual decision making necessary to help the vehicle understand its physical surroundings on the road.
The university’s researchers are processing the trillions of bytes of data collected by the vehicle’s sensors, from which they can build a 3D model of the environment around the vehicle. The goal is to help the vehicle – and the driver – make appropriate and safe driving decisions.
“This research builds on the University of Michigan’s long history of pioneering automotive research with Ford,” said Alec Gallimore, associate dean of research and graduate education at the school’s College of Engineering. “The unique collaboration will enable Ford to benefit from the university’s deep knowledge of robotics and automation, and it will allow University of Michigan faculty and students to work side-by-side with some of the best auto engineers in the world.”
Meanwhile, State Farm has been working with Ford to assess the impact of driver-assist technologies to determine if the technologies can lower the rate of rear collisions.
Last year there were nearly 34,000 fatalities due to traffic accidents in the United States. By developing more intelligent vehicles, Ford helps create smarter drivers.
“By teaming up with Ford and the University of Michigan in this research, we are continuing our decades-long commitment to making vehicles, roadways and drivers safer,” said State Farm Chairman and CEO Edward Rust. “The changes new technologies bring to our lives are exciting, and we are always looking at how technology can better meet the ever-changing needs of our customers.”
Setting the stage for mobility in Michigan
Today’s Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle announcement follows an aggressive plan released this week by Business Leaders for Michigan to position the state as the global center for mobility and grow up to 100,000 new jobs in its auto sector by becoming a hub for excellence in advanced powertrain, lightweight and smart/connected transportation technologies.
With Bill Ford as champion of Business Leaders for Michigan’s mobility initiative, the plan has been developed with a coalition of top industry experts, the Center for Automotive Research and McKinsey & Company. The plan identifies growth strategies for the auto sector as it transitions to an increasingly advanced technology-based sector.
BILL FORD OUTLINES “BLUEPRINT FOR MOBILITY” VISION – CALLS ON MOBILE INDUSTRY TO HELP DEVELOP TRANSPORTATION SOLUTIONS
- Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford outlines vision for smart transportation and need for development of intelligent vehicles and transport systems at Mobile World Congress
- Ford Motor Company’s “Blueprint for Mobility” calls for partnership with telecommunications industry to create an inter-connected transportation network as part of the solution for alleviating “global gridlock”
- Ford envisions a radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic are woven into a connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety
- Ford is already developing new business models and partnerships in anticipation of personal vehicle ownership in cities becoming increasingly impractical
- Ford announces AppLink smart phone app voice-control system to go global
Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford has outlined a plan for connected cars to help avoid a potential future of crippling congestion.
During his keynote address at the 2012 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Ford told delegates that the number of cars on the world’s roads is forecast to grow from 1 billion now to up to 4 billion by mid-century.
And he proposed that one way of avoiding the potentially global problem of an overcrowded road network is to create a global transportation network that utilizes communication between vehicles, transport infrastructure and individual mobile devices.
“If we do nothing, we face the prospect of ‘global gridlock’, a never-ending traffic jam that wastes time, energy and resources and even compromises the flow of commerce and healthcare,” said Ford in a preview of Ford Motor Company’s “Blueprint for Mobility”. “The cooperation needed between the automotive and telecommunications industries will be greater than ever as we prepare for and manage the future. We will need to develop new technologies, as well as new ways of looking at the world,” he added.
“No one company or industry will be able to solve the mobility issue alone and the speed at which solutions take hold will be determined largely by customer acceptance of new technologies. The telecommunications industry is critical in the creation of an inter-connected transportation system where cars are intelligent and can talk to one another as well as the infrastructure around them. Now is the time for us all to be looking at vehicles on the road the same way we look at smartphones, laptops and tablets; as pieces of a much bigger, richer network.”
Addressing Mobile World Congress delegates earlier in the day Ford Motor Company also took the opportunity to announce that AppLink, a feature which delivers voice control of smart phone apps from the driver’s seat, is being introduced globally as part of the SYNC voice-control and in-car connectivity system.
In the spirit of cooperation outlined in the keynote address, Ford plans to work closely with app developers around the world to provide the best services for Ford customers through AppLink.
“Blueprint for Mobility” adapts to a changing transport landscape
The company’s “Blueprint for Mobility” will seek solutions for a problem that is already becoming a reality in expanding vehicle markets around the world. In Sao Paulo, traffic jams regularly exceed 100 miles and the average commute lasts between 2 and 3 hours a day. Despite this, car buying is growing at a rate of 7.5 percent annually. In China, the world’s longest period of gridlock was registered at 11 days during 2010.
The problem is not restricted to emerging markets, either. For example, it is estimated that the cost of congestion to the economy in England through lost time will rise to around $35 billion (€26 billion) annually by 2025. In Germany, sustaining a town of 300,000 people is estimated to require 1,000 truck deliveries daily.
Solving the issue of urban mobility is a huge challenge that will only be successful if government collaboration, infrastructure development and industry come together globally.
During his keynote address, Ford focused on the opportunities and challenges presented by expanding communication networks and increasing global demand for personal mobility and commercial transportation as he outlined his vision for a future transport network integrated with mobile communications.
And as with the company’s “Blueprint for Sustainability,” which set near, mid- and long-term goals for significant reductions in the company’s global environmental footprint, the “Blueprint for Mobility” defines the start of Ford’s thinking on what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, and the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there, including;
Near-Term (5-7 years)
- Ford Motor Company to be at the forefront of developing increasingly intuitive in-car mobile communications options and driver interfaces that proactively alert drivers to traffic jams and accidents
- Developmental projects such as the vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems currently being explored at Ford’s European Research and Advanced Engineering Centre, in Aachen, Germany, and intelligent speed control features to grow in capability
- The delivery of a better-connected, safer and more efficient driving experience with limited autonomous functions for parking and driving in slow-moving traffic – building on existing Ford features including Active Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Active City Stop
- Further development and defining of new vehicle ownership models, as already demonstrated through the Ford collaboration with Zipcar, the world’s largest car sharing and car club service
Mid-Term (2017 – 2025)
- The introduction of semi-autonomous driving technology including driver-initiated “auto pilot” capabilities and vehicle platooning in limited situations – technologies that will provide improved safety and driver assistance features, but allow the driver to take control, if needed
- Significantly more interaction between individual cars on the road through utilization of ever-increasing computing power and numbers of sensors in vehicles, helping reduce the number of accidents at intersections and enabling limited semi-autonomous and autonomous highway lane changing and exiting
- The arrival of vehicle-to-cloud and vehicle-to infrastructure communication that contribute to greater time and energy efficiency by enabling vehicles to recommend alternative transport options when congestion is unavoidable and to pre-reserve parking at destinations
- The emergence of an integrated transport network, featuring cars plugged into public databases
- New city vehicle options as more and more 1, 2 and 3-passenger vehicles are introduced to help manoeuver city streets
“Cars are becoming mobile communications platforms and as such, they are a great untapped opportunity for the telecommunications industry. Right now, there are a billion computing devices in the form of individual vehicles out on our roads. They’re largely unconnected from one another and the network,” Ford said.
“We’ll increasingly take advantage of the car as a rolling collection of sensors to reduce congestion and help prevent accidents. I’m confident that we will see many of these advances on the road in this mid-term period because the early versions are already being designed, and in most cases, tested.”
- A radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic will be woven into a single connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety
- Arrival of smart vehicles capable of fully autonomous navigation, with increased “auto pilot” operating duration, plus the arrival of autonomous valet functions, delivering effortless vehicle parking and storage
- Development of a true network of mobility solutions, with personal vehicle ownership complimented by greater use of connected and efficient shared services, and completely new business models contributing to improved personal mobility
Bill Ford’s keynote at the 2012 Mobile World Congress was the first ever to be delivered at the leading annual communications industry event by an automotive industry executive, and followed his address at the TED 2011 conference in Long Beach, Calif.
Accident Avoidance and Driver Assist Technologies
A variety of Ford technologies, in addition to each vehicle’s handling and braking capabilities, can assist drivers by helping the driver control the vehicle or alerting the driver to potential risks. Also, these technologies can support everyday driving tasks by improving comfort and reducing demands on the driver. The all-new 2013 Ford Fusion is just one of the vehicles in the Ford lineup to offer a portfolio of these types of technologies.
Adaptive Cruise Control
The Fusion offers Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), for example. ACC helps drivers maintain a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front of them, using a radar module mounted at the front of the vehicle that measures the gap and closing speed to the vehicle ahead. The system automatically adjusts the speed of the car to help maintain a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front. Radar-based ACC is also available on the Ford Taurus, Edge, Flex and Explorer and the Lincoln MKZ, MKS, MKX and MKT.
Collision Warning with Brake Support
The all-new Fusion also offers Ford’s Collision Warning with Brake Support technology, which uses the same radar module as the ACC to detect range and speed. Collision Warning with Brake Support activates a visual and audible warning when the system detects a high risk of collision with the vehicle in front. In addition, the brake system is pre-tensioned and the “servo boost” assistance system is modulated to provide faster brake performance (e.g., as soon as the driver lifts the gas pedal), if required by the driver. If the sensor becomes blocked by snow, ice or mud, the driver will receive a notice of reduced or suspended functionality. In addition to being available on the Fusion, this technology is available in North America on the Ford Taurus, Edge, Flex and Explorer and the Lincoln MKS, MKX, MKZ and MKT, and in Europe on the Ford Mondeo, S-MAX, Galaxy and Focus.
Lane Keeping System
The Fusion also offers Ford’s Lane Keeping System, which consists of three elements to help a driver maintain proper lane position: Driver Alert, Lane Keeping Alert and Lane Keeping Aid. Using a small, forward-facing camera behind the inside rearview mirror, the system “looks” down the road, monitoring lane lines to determine that the vehicle remains in its lane. Driver Alert computes a “vigilance level” for the driver and displays it in the instrument cluster upon request. The vigilance judgment is based on statistical analysis of lane information collected by the forward-looking camera and the vehicle’s yaw behavior. If the system-calculated vigilance level falls below a certain level (e.g., if the driver gets tired), visual and audible warnings are given. Lane Keeping Alert is designed to warn the driver, via a three-pulse vibration in the steering wheel, when the front-view camera detects that an unintentional lane departure is happening. Lane Keeping Aid goes a step further, applying a steering torque in the direction the driver needs to steer to keep the vehicle in the current lane.
Lane Keeping System can be activated and deactivated manually via a switch on the turn indicator stalk. When the system is activated, drivers have the option of choosing Alert mode, Aid mode or a combination of both. The system is automatically deactivated at speeds below 38 mph, so as not to interfere in urban conditions when intentional lane crossing is relatively frequent. In North America, Lane Keeping System is available on the 2013 Lincoln MKS, MKT and MKZ and the 2013 Ford Explorer, in addition to the Fusion. In Europe, it is available on the Ford Focus, Kuga and C-MAX. Also, Lane Keeping Alert and Driver Alert are available in Europe on the new Ford Transit, Turneo Custom, Mondeo, S-MAX and Galaxy.
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert
The Fusion’s available Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert uses rear corner-mounted, side-looking radar that detects other vehicles around the car and illuminates an indicator lamp in the rearview mirror. When backing out of a parking space, the same sensors can detect vehicles approaching from the sides that may not be visible to the driver. BLIS is also available on the Ford Taurus, Escape, Edge, Flex and Explorer and the Lincoln MKZ, MKS, MKX and MKT. BLIS (without the Cross Traffic Alert element) is available in Europe on the Ford Mondeo, S-MAX, Galaxy, C-MAX, Focus and Kuga.
Active Park Assist
The new Fusion also offers Active Park Assist. Active Park Assist uses ultrasonic sensors, while the driver is slowly driving near parking spots, to measure the distance between cars. When a suitable parking space is found, Active Park Assist can steer the car into the parking space while the driver controls the shifting, accelerator and brake. Active Park Assist is also available on the Ford Focus, Fusion, Taurus, C-MAX, Escape, Flex and Explorer, as well as the Lincoln MKS, MKZ and MKT and in Europe on the Kuga, Focus and C-MAX.
Rear View Camera
Finally, the Fusion offers a Rear View Camera, which transmits an image of what is behind the vehicle when it is shifted in reverse. Rear View Camera is available on every Ford and Lincoln vehicle in North America. In Europe, Rear View Camera is offered on the Ford Focus, B-MAX, C-MAX, S-MAX and Kuga.
In addition to the technologies featured on the new Fusion, Ford offers several other accident avoidance and driver assist technologies on some of our other vehicles. Curve Control, for example, is designed to sense when a driver is taking a curve too quickly. In those situations, it rapidly reduces engine torque and can apply four-wheel braking, slowing the vehicle by up to 10 mph in about a second. The technology is designed to be effective on wet or dry pavement, and is expected to be helpful when drivers are entering or exiting freeway ramps with too much speed. In North America Curve Control is available on the Ford Explorer, Taurus, Flex and Escape, as well as the Lincoln MKS and MKT. In Europe, it is available on the Ford Kuga. A majority of Ford’s North American products will offer Curve Control by 2015.
Active City Stop
Using a forward-looking radar sensor, Active City Stop is designed to detect objects in front of the car and constantly (50 times per second) calculate the braking force required to avoid a collision. If the estimated braking force exceeds a given level without the driver responding, the danger of a collision is considered imminent and the system automatically reduces throttle input and applies the car’s brakes. The system is designed for speeds below 20 mph (30km/h). Active City Stop is available in Europe on the Ford Kuga, Focus, Fiesta and C-MAX.