Ford Motor Company’s researchers are developing advanced crash avoidance systems that use wireless and GPS technologies to help vehicles communicate with each other in traffic and help drivers avoid or mitigate accidents.

Ford’s Automatic Braking Intersection Collision Avoidance System (ABICAS), which is under development, uses radio-based wireless sensors, GPS and navigation information to detect the relative location of other radio-equipped test vehicles. The system is being designed to warn drivers of imminent side-impact collisions and automatically activate the brakes if necessary to avoid or minimize the damage caused by such collisions.

ABICAS is enabled by wireless vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and works in conjunction with radar- and camera-based driver assist features, such as adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support, which are available on many Ford vehicles.

While radar and camera sensors can detect other vehicles ahead and behind a vehicle, radio-based wireless sensors give vehicles a 360-degree “view.” Information from these various sensors is combined with engineering algorithms to ensure the validity of an imminent collision before automatically activating the vehicle’s brakes – all of which happens in a split second.

When a vehicle is equipped with a dedicated short-range wireless radio, it can communicate with similarly equipped vehicles, and use the shared information in concert with its safety systems.

“By leveraging wireless technology, Ford is developing tomorrow’s crash avoidance systems today,” said Jim Vondale, director, Ford Automotive Safety Office. “Thanks to research projects like ABICAS, tomorrow’s vehicles will one day be able to talk to each other to avoid accidents.”

The smart way to cross intersections
Ford’s vehicle-to-vehicle research builds on knowledge gained from its Smart Intersection project, focused on wireless communications between vehicles and intersection infrastructure. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 40 percent of all traffic accidents occur in intersections where side-impact collisions are most common.

The Smart Intersection project communicates with test vehicles to warn drivers of potential collisions, such as when a vehicle is about to run through a red light. The intersection is outfitted with technology that monitors traffic signal status, GPS data and digital maps to assess potential hazards, and then transmits warning information to other specially equipped vehicles.

Once the information is received by the vehicle, its collision avoidance system can be designed to determine whether the car can safely cross the intersection or if it needs to stop before entering the intersection. If the system determines the need to stop and senses that the driver is not decelerating quickly enough, it issues visual and audible warnings to the driver.

“For vehicle-to-vehicle communications to be effective, common standards will need to be established for all automakers to follow,” said Mike Shulman, technical leader, Ford Active Safety Research and Advanced Engineering. “Our research is helping to identify the types of warnings that drivers find to be effective and easier to understand.”

Going wireless in Europe
In Germany, Ford is collaborating on a wireless research project with other automakers and the government in an effort to address congestion-related traffic safety issues. The Safe and Intelligent Mobility—Test Field Germany research project, which runs through 2012, is a 400-vehicle field-test to evaluate feasibility and scalability of wireless systems in the real world.

For the project, 100 drivers actively collect data by completing driving tasks and 300 drivers passively collect data by driving wherever they would normally go. This project is taking into consideration hazard and collision warnings, the delivery of real-time traffic information such as congestions, construction areas, detour routes, and Internet-enabled location-based services.

“Deployment of reliable and effective wireless systems can enhance vehicle safety, reduce traffic accidents and ease congestion,” said Christian Ress, Ford connectivity technical expert, Telematics Research and Advanced Engineering Europe. “We will bring these systems to market when they have been fully assessed for feasibility, robustness and practicality.”

Global harmonization
Ford is working closely with governments, standards organizations and other global automakers to develop harmonized global standards to support and accelerate the deployment of this technology. Ford and other global vehicle manufacturers need harmonized standards in order to support their global vehicle platforms and to develop reliable, cost-effective wireless systems.

“We must develop these standards now while the technology is being researched and developed or we will end up with a variety of standards and vehicles that cannot talk to each other from region to region,” Vondale said. “Failure to develop standards would delay deployment, decrease reliability and unnecessarily increase costs.”