Traffic lights are a major annoyance for many motorists, especially when it feels like all the lights are against you. Ford has imagined a future without traffic lights, where connected cars adjust their speed to get through intersections without stopping. Stop-start traffic could soon be a thing of the past.
Ford’s research suggests the average driver spends two days every year sitting at the lights, so this innovation could save a lot of time if it works as it should. The company also states that junctions are the cause of around 60% of road traffic accidents. Autonomous technology that would allow cars to navigate intersections by themselves would therefore save millions of pounds and countless lives. Cars would use less fuel, too, as repeated braking and acceleration wastes our resources.
Intersection Priority Management works by having vehicles ‘talk’ to each other, broadcasting the speed, location and direction of travel. Each car would then work out the ideal speed to continue through the intersection without colliding with the other vehicle. The cars would pass very closely, so it’ll probably take some getting used to before passengers stop feeling scared!
Although it sounds complicated, it’s actually based on a simple, human concept. Ford has looked at how people negotiate large crowds – we all speed up and slow down, almost without realising it, to avoid collisions with other people. We do this without the need for coming to a complete stop or traffic signals, so it is hoped that cars can work in the same way.
“We know that intersections and traffic lights can be a real bugbear for many drivers,” said Christian Ress, supervisor of Ford’s Driver Assist Technologies division. “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.”
Ford has recently tested technology to help emergency vehicles get to their destination as quickly as possible, and an idea to further prevent accidents.