Ford testing car-to-car communication in Germany


Ford are continuing their march towards safer driving by leveraging new technology. The latest experimental technology is dubbed the “Electronic Brake Light”. The idea here is to notify drivers earlier of upcoming traffic activity. This means using a non-public wireless frequency, car-to-car communication takes place when a driver engages the brake. This will communicate to the vehicles behind that a car is stopping ahead and that they should brake. It’s hoped that this technology will dramatically decrease or even eliminate rear end accidents in the future.

Because the system doesn’t rely on line-of-sight, but rather wireless, the system even works around corners and through traffic. Electronic Brake Light transmits a wireless signal to illuminate a dashboard light on following vehicles. This is just one of more than 20 systems that Ford tested on their Testfield  in Germany. They are also experimenting with this inter-vehicle communication to reduce traffic congestion.

Specially-equipped Ford S-MAX models were used to testing which also contained Obstacle Warning, this alerts drivers to objects on the road, and Traffic Sign Assistant, which provides up-to-date information from traffic management centres. Currently this traffic sign assistant technology only works in Germany, apparently our signs are a bit complex (like our accent) for now, but with time, this technology should reach international markets.

The field tests took place in the Frankfurt region and involved 500 test drivers in 120 vehicles, more than 41,000 hours and 1.6 million kilometers on public roads and an enclosed test track.

“Car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications represent one of the next major advancements in vehicle safety,” said Paul Mascarenas, Ford’s chief technical officer and vice president, Ford Research and Innovation. “Ford is committed to further real-world testing here and around the world with the goal of implementation in the foreseeable future.”

Overall this is seriously neat technology that clearly takes a lot longer to develop than your latest mobile phone. The consequences of getting this wrong are so much more dramatic, when you’re playing with people’s lives, there is no second chance, there can be no bugs. Still what Ford are playing with here, inter-vehicle communication is the stepping stones to the future of driving. We may eventually reach a point with mobile network connectivity that communication is fast and reliable enough to go over the consumer infrastructure, but we’re a way off that yet.

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