Do you suck at driving? Don’t worry, no one has to know

Welp, we’re well on our way to a fully autonomous driving future! Whether that sentence fills you with hope and optimism, or fear and dread, it doesn’t really matter. You see, the thing is, it looks like we’re gonna be living with self-driving cars one way or another, and in the transition, we’ll be seeing lots and lots of new technologies aimed at improving the safety and convenience of the modern automobile. Classified as “driver-assist” features, these technologies are being introduced in pretty much every segment of the automotive spectrum, and the Blue Oval just announced its latest efforts to deliver the most cutting-edge tech on the market. Included are features to “ease parking hassles, improve collision avoidance, detect objects in the road and prevent wrong-way driving.”

To help you slot in between the lines at the supermarket without knocking over an errant cart, Ford is developing a cross-traffic alert system that’ll kick in when backing into or out of a parking spot. The system will use radar and a wide-view camera to detect objects or people that are blocking ingress and egress to a parking spot, relaying a warning to the driver and even applying the brakes if needed.

This system also gets active park assist that will take the reigns and parallel park the car for you, controlling the steering, gear selection, braking and throttle.

Further systems in development at research centers in Germany will automatically steer your car around objects in the road. It’s called evasive steering assist, and it’s designed to work at both highway and city speeds. The system uses radar and camera systems to detect cars and obstacles, and if an imminent collision is spotted, extra steering input is added should the driver decide to “take evasive action.”

Finally, there’s a proposed system that integrates a windshield-mounted camera and navigation info to detect if a driver is headed the wrong way into traffic, sending audible and visual warnings.

These technologies are expected to see integration on Ford’s upcoming models in the next two years. Read on for more info, some of the other tech in development, and what it all means.

Continue reading for the full story.

Why it matters

Ford Unveils Next Generation Of Driver-Assist Technologies High Resolution Exterior
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In conjunction with the systems outlined above, Ford is also developing something called spot lighting technology, which uses infrared cameras to detect pedestrians, cyclists and animals. These potential hazards are then highlighted for the driver, presumably through augmented reality windshields and windows.

There’s also an advanced lighting system that will use cameras to detect intersections and roundabouts, widening the headlight beams accordingly to help see around corners.

Finally, there’s traffic jam assist, which will keep you positioned inside your lane and automatically apply the brakes and throttle to keep you with the flow (or lack thereof) of traffic.

All this tech will join Ford’s current lineup of driver assist features, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, attention assist, adaptive high beams, and blind spot monitor.

Interestingly, a lot of these technologies tend to piggyback off one another. For example, it’s not too difficult to discern how the radar used for adaptive cruise control can be reconfigured to provide data for the traffic jam assist feature.

The broader take on all this is the eventual integration of all these systems for a totally autonomous vehicle. However, before something like that can hit the market, automakers like Ford need to iron out all the bugs in the various systems.

Some automakers are more bullish. Tesla, for example, is in hot water for its Autopilot feature. While the California-based automaker maintains that Autopilot is still in the beta phase, some users are abusing the system to relinquish all responsibility behind the wheel.

That’s certainly the direction we’re headed, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, these active “driver-assist” features will provide a nice stopgap and prime the general public for the day when fully autonomous cars rule the streets.

But I can’t help but wonder – what will that future look like? For example, how will these technologies affect car chase scenes in movies? Will future audiences scoff when a car doesn’t automatically brake for an imminent collision?

What sort of features do you want to see? Are you looking forward to self-driving vehicles, or does the idea not sit well with you? Let us know in the comments.

Jonathan Lopez
About the author

Press Release

Building on its industry leadership in available driver-assist technologies, Ford Motor Company is expanding its offerings with a range of next-generation features designed to ease parking hassles, improve collision avoidance, detect objects in the road and prevent wrong-way driving.

Ford offers more nameplates in the United States with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning with land-keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert, driver monitoring, adaptive high-beam assist, Blind Spot Information System and advanced parking assistant than any other full-line manufacturer.*

“Driver-assist technologies help us all be better drivers because they enhance our ability to see and sense the road around us,” said Scott Lindstrom, manager, driver-assist and active safety at Ford. “Ford’s investment in research and development is paying off by accelerating innovation to expand our portfolio of driver-assist technologies that deliver functionality and performance that customers will value.”

Cross-traffic alert with braking technology in development at Ford is being designed to help reduce parking stress by detecting people and objects about to pass behind the vehicle, providing a warning to the driver and then automatically braking if the driver does not respond. Rear wide-view camera, on the in-car display, will offer an alternative wide-angle view of the rear of the vehicle. Enhanced active park assist will parallel or perpendicular park at the push of a button.

Other features in development at Ford of Europe’s Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany, include systems that steer around vehicles to help avoid high-speed collisions and systems that can warn drivers from traveling the wrong way against traffic.

These new technologies – expected to be available on Ford vehicles within two years – are part of the company’s commitment to triple its investment in developing driver-assist features.

Steering out of trouble
Evasive steering assist is a new technology that can help drivers steer around stopped or slower vehicles to help avoid collisions. Designed to operate at city and highway speeds, it uses radar and a camera to detect slower-moving and stationary vehicles ahead, and provides steering support to enable drivers to avoid a vehicle if a collision is imminent. The system is activated if there is insufficient space to avoid a collision by braking and the driver decides to take evasive action.

Preventing wrong-way driving; taking the stress out of parking
Wrong-way alert technology uses a windshield-mounted camera and information from the car’s navigation system to offer customers visual and audio warnings should they begin driving the wrong direction against traffic.

Enhanced active park assist controls steering, gear selection, and forward and reverse movement to facilitate parking at the push of a button. It can enable a vehicle to automatically enter and exit a parallel parking space, as well as reverse into a perpendicular space.

“Parking is one of the most stressful experiences behind the wheel, and drivers struggling to find suitable parking spaces in urban areas can impact traffic flow,” said Dirk Gunia, supervisor, driver-assist electronics, Ford of Europe. “Technologies like enhanced active park assist will help drivers feel confident about parking in spaces they might otherwise consider too small.”

Cross-traffic alert with braking uses radar sensors to monitor the area behind the vehicle. If the driver is backing out and does not react to the initial warning, the system is designed to automatically apply the brakes.

Rear wide-view camera displays a broad view from the rear of the vehicle on the in-car display, offering similar functionality to the company’s front wide-view camera available for Ford Edge, along with Ford Galaxy and Ford S-MAX in other markets. When reversing, it provides an additional view that enables drivers to see around corners, as well as obstacles and objects approaching from behind the vehicle.

Additional technologies being developed by Ford include:

Spot lighting technology uses an infrared camera to help detect pedestrians, cyclists and animals – highlighting these potential hazards for drivers
Camera-based advanced front lighting system widens the headlight beam at intersections and roundabouts after interpreting traffic signs
Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver keep the vehicle centered in a lane, plus it brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front

Leading the way
Ford already offers a wide range of available driver-assist technologies, with Ford Escape, Taurus, F-150, Fusion and Edge all leading their segments with the most driver-assist features available.*

Ford’s portfolio of driver-assist technology now includes:

Adaptive cruise control works to slow the vehicle when radar detects traffic slowing ahead; after traffic clears, vehicle resumes its preset speed
Forward collision warning with brake support uses radar to detect a potential collision with a car ahead; driver is alerted with visual and audio warnings
Driver Alert computes a driver’s vigilance level and displays it in the instrument cluster upon request; if the vigilance level falters, system offers visual and audio warnings
Lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist notifies drivers of an unintentional lane departure and applies steering wheel torque to keep the vehicle in its lane
Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert uses radar to detect vehicles around the car; an indicator lamp on the side-view mirrors lights when detected. When backing up, the system alerts of vehicles approaching from the sides
Active park assist uses ultrasonic sensors to measure the distance between cars to find a parking space, then helps steer the car into that space
Automatic high-beam control uses a camera to detect vehicles ahead, then automatically deactivates high-beams
Hill Start Assist helps the driver start the vehicle on an uphill gradient by holding the brakes; driver moves his or her foot from the brake to the accelerator
Curve Control senses a driver taking a curve too quickly and responds by rapidly reducing engine torque, applying four-wheel braking when needed

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