Ford’s new car safety tech could automatically reduce vehicle speed

25 May 2022

Image: Ford

The new Ford geofencing system is designed to alert a driver when their car breaks the speed limit – and then slow down the vehicle.

Speed limit signs may soon be a thing of the past as Ford is trialling connected vehicle technology that could automatically reduce a car’s speed in certain zones to improve road safety.

Up to 29pc of all road fatalities in Europe are pedestrians and cyclists, depending on the country, according to a 2020 report by the European Transport Safety Council. Lowering speed limits in certain areas is one of the key measures to minimise these road accidents.

Now, US carmaker Ford is testing its new Geofencing Speed Limit Control system in two German cities, Cologne and Aachen, to see if the technology can help in making streets safer for other road users and pedestrians.

The company said the system could also prevent speeding fines for drivers and improve the appearance of roadsides without speed limit signs.

A geofence is a virtual perimeter in a real-world area. It is currently used by a number of e-scooter companies, such as Ireland’s Zipp Mobility, to identify certain zones in cities and enforce lower speed limits.

How does it work?

Ford’s new system uses geofencing technology to alert a driver through the dashboard when the vehicle enters an area with a designated speed limit. It then lowers the vehicle speed to match the limit automatically.

The driver can override the automated system and deactivate speed limit control at any time. They can also use the technology to set their own geofencing zones at speeds as low as 20kph.

“Connected vehicle technology has the proven potential to help make everyday driving easier and safer to benefit everyone, not just the person behind the wheel,” said Michael Huynh, manager of City Engagement Germany at Ford Europe.

“Geofencing can ensure speeds are reduced where – and even when – necessary to help improve safety and create a more pleasant environment.”

Ford already has in-built assistance technologies that help drivers ensure they are abiding by speed limits. However, the new geofencing speed limit control system is the first that could automatically reduce a vehicle’s speed without the driver’s intervention.

Eyes on the road

A year-long trial of the system is running until March 2023 in collaboration between the Ford City Engagement team, city officials in Cologne and Aachen, and Ford software engineers in Palo Alto, California.

Researchers now are using two Ford E-Transit all-electric vans to study the impact of speed limiting when it comes to traffic flow and reducing accidents.

Together with colleagues in Aachen, the Palo Alto engineers developed technology that connects the vehicle to the geofencing system for GPS tracking and data exchange.

Germany has more than 1,000 types of road signs, which can often confuse drivers and distract them from the road ahead. Ford said that geofencing technologies such as its new system could help drivers stay focused.

“Our drivers should benefit from the latest technical support, including geofencing-based assistant systems that enable them to keep to the speed limits and fully concentrate on the road,” said Dr Bert Schröer of AWB, a Cologne waste disposal company involved in the trial.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic