U.S.A.:Ford device intended to unclog roads
BY RAJIV VYAS/ The St. Paul Pioneer Press
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Ford Motor Co. has begun a two-state project to help reduce traffic jams and inform drivers of bad weather in real time -- potentially preventing accidents and reducing commutes by as much as 50 percent.
The experiment is intended to turn vehicles into mobile traffic-monitoring tools. They'll report their locations and speeds along with road temperatures, whether their headlights and windshield wipers are activated, even if their antilock braking systems have been used.
Slow vehicle speeds with frequent stops would signal traffic congestion, for instance. Windshield use along with near-freezing pavement temperatures and ABS activations would point to slick conditions.
Currently, traffic and weather are monitored by satellites and sensors on highways. The data are not detailed enough to prevent traffic jams.
"We are trying to develop the next-generation travel advisory system," said Ron Miller, project leader for intelligent vehicle technologies at Ford's research and advanced engineering unit in Dearborn.
The automaker plans to equip 20 shuttle buses in its Dearborn campus and 15 police cars in Dearborn Heights with sensing devices that would communicate traffic and weather information.
Ford also has a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to equip 50 to 100 state-owned cars and buses with the devises. The $600,000 program is being paid for with state and federal funds. The vehicles will hit the streets in both states in phases beginning in April.
Ford said the project is expected to be completed in a year and findings are likely to be made public early next year. New products resulting from the findings could take two to three years to bring to market and would cost consumers about $100.
The project calls for a system in which cars, trucks and busses will communicate information to computers at a traffic management department.
The devices on them would collect traffic-related data including vehicle speed, location and which direction the vehicle is heading.
Weather-related data will also be obtained, including outside temperature, whether it's raining and if the highway is slippery.
The data will be analyzed and important information will be available on highway message signs, 511 telephone services and related Web sites. This information might also be used to send out emergency assistance as well as road and maintenance crews.
In the second phase, which should begin in September or October, important traffic and weather information will be communicated to the drivers in the cars through radio or another medium.
Miller said that in computer simulations conducted by Ford, a project like this reduced commute time by as much as 50 percent and traffic jams were reduced. He said because of this, the chances of traffic accidents could also be reduced.
This is a big opportunity to reduce traffic jams, said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and lead automotive analyst at Gartner Group, a technology research firm. "The challenge is to get enough cars with these devices on the road to collect enough data."
Most states have sensors on their freeways that transmit weather and traffic information to a traffic management department, said Jim Kranig, assistant state traffic engineer of operations at Minnesota Department of Transportation. But the information is not in real time, he said.
Kranig said this project would use sensors and other equipment in the car to give more timely and accurate information -- not just on freeways but also rural areas.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....