A highly successful Ford Futures media event at Lommel, plus the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line, earned the Blue Oval really strong coverage both in automotive and non-automotive media this week…
BBC Online (UK) reports on Ford’s Obstacle Avoidance technology, revealed to media for the first time at the Ford Futures event in Lommel: “A car that takes control of the steering wheel when it detects the risk of a collision is being tested at a research facility in Germany. Ford said the Obstacle Avoidance system first warned the driver of danger and then took charge if they did not react. The firm said the equipment had been fitted to one of its Focus-branded vehicles as part of a project involving other carmakers and suppliers. One analyst said it was a staging post on the route to "driverless cars". The system scans up to 200m (650ft) ahead by using three radars, a number of ultrasonic sensors and a camera, which are all installed in the vehicle. An additional built-in display shows a warning sign and sounds a chime. Then, if necessary, it applies the brakes, scans for a gap in the road ahead, and steers to avoid a crash. "You're driving down the road and a pedestrian or something comes out from either side of your vehicle from your peripheral vision where you don't have a good look at it," said Bard Samardzich, vice-president of product development at Ford's European division. "Obstacle Avoidance can sense that the pedestrian or that object is coming across the front of your vehicle. If it doesn't sense you responding accordingly in your vehicle by braking or manoeuvring, it will take over."
HonestJohn.co.uk writes about Ford’s “Self-Parking Car”, adding: “Parking assistance systems, while typically installed in more luxurious models, are no new thing – but while they require you to control the throttle and brake the new Ford system doesn’t. In fact it doesn’t even require you to be in the car at all – you can set it going with a button on the keyfob.
It’s not currently available to buy, but Ford has produced a prototype that can select the correct gear, find a parking space, reverse into it and stop. Additionally, should you return to the car and find it impossible to get into the driver’s seat care of someone parking too close the car will drive forwards on its own so you can get in. The technology is still in its early stages and getting it into production will doubtless be fraught with issues – it might well be tricky to convince safety legislators and insurance bigwigs to let self-driving cars loose. Nonetheless the video below shows that it does work in theory and in testing, so it could well make production in coming years.”
Germany’s Autoreporter.net covers both stories: “At its “Ford Futures” event in Lommel, Belgium, Ford showcased a whole array of highly advanced futuristic technologies. Among them were two systems that saw their global unveiling at the event: One is a fully automatic parking assistance system that maneuvers the car into parking spots without the aid of the driver, who needs to just press a button and thus does not even need to be inside the car. Another prototype at the event demonstrated Ford’s innovative collision avoidance system.
As far as the autonomous parking system is concerned, Ford’s engineers made use of several technologies that have been available for its production models for quite some time already. Examples include Ford’s automated PowerShift transmission and its matured parking assistance system. The next-generation of the parking assistance system not only shifts gears and steers automatically, but is also in control of the accelerator and brakes.
The collision avoidance system is the partial result of a Ford-led and EU-supported research project. A vehicle equipped with the futuristic system detects humans as well as slower moving or static objects in its own lane. In the event that the driver does not take action, the system takes control of the steering wheel and the brakes in order to prevent a collision.
In addition to these two innovative systems, Ford also showed off several new products and technologies at the “Ford Futures” event. One of these was the Ford S-MAX Concept, a preview of the next-generation S-MAX which takes the uncompromising approach of the original model to the next level by adding a slim design and a particularly versatile interior.
Also on display was the Ford Mondeo Vignale Concept, which gives us a first look at a completely new customer experience. The new range-topping trim, which will be available starting in early 2015, combines special and particularly high-quality designs with top-notch material and build quality, exclusive trim, and cutting-edge technology. What’s more, Ford also now has an ultra-modern lineup of electrified vehicles, consisting of the Ford Focus Electric, the Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, and the Ford Mondeo Hybrid.”
Italy’s Virgilio.it also reports from Lommel: “Until a few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine cars driving and parking themselves and avoiding obstacles without human intervention. Many will think of the famous KITT from the American TV series Knight Rider, but now there are actually cars that can help us in our everyday lives like robots.
Ford introduced some of its new technological developments at its testing center in Lommel, Belgium. These electronic devices are associated with safety, comfort and even the health of the occupants. One of Ford’s prototypes demonstrated its ability to park automatically, avoiding every obstacle. Using ultrasonic sensors and existing technologies like PowerShift automatic transmission and Active Park Assist, the system identifies a suitable parking spot that’s at least 20% bigger than the car. The driver can then remain inside the car or get out and push a button on a remote control that will activate the steering, transmission, brakes and accelerator. The maneuver can be interrupted at any moment. Another fundamental system for automatic driving is Obstacle Avoidance, which can recognize obstacles, brake, slow down and steer automatically to avoid other cars and pedestrians… But the most astonishing technology is perhaps the Emergency Assistance function of the Ford SYNC system. Installed in the S-MAX Concept, it can monitor the driver’s health. The seat has six sensors that track the driver’s heart rate, even through his clothes. If an anomaly is detected, the system emits a warning. The same mechanism is used to monitor blood sugar levels. The SYNC system is linked via Bluetooth to the diagnostic devices, which issue an alert if the driver’s glucose levels fall dangerously low. In the future, it will be capable of sending this data in real time to doctors and hospitals.”
Spain’s El Mundo is one of numerous publications reporting about the 100th anniversary of the moving assembly line which was pioneered by Ford: “It has been a century since Henry Ford launched his first assembly line in Highland Park, Michigan. Ford simplified assembly of the Model T by breaking its 3,000 parts into 84 distinct steps performed by groups of workers as a rope pulled the chassis down the assembly line. The process drastically reduced the production time per unit from 12 hours to about 90 minutes, allowing Ford to lower the Model T’s price from 850 to less than 300 dollars. By 1927, Ford was able to build a Model T every 24 seconds and sold more than 15 million units worldwide, accounting for half of all automobiles sold at the time. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its first assembly line, Ford announced plans for 90% of its factories to operate with three shifts by 2017. This would boost production by more than 30%. By this date, Ford will also require each of its factories to produce an average of four different models. This will be the case of Ford’s Spanish plant, which will stop production from Dec. 20 to Jan. 20 in order to be updated. Ford will also reduce its number of platforms from 15 to nine.”