By on November 3, 2016

Ford Assist

How many times have you nearly backed your car over a child that was too short to see through your rear window? If the answer is more than once, you’re probably getting more than just a little tired of dealing with angry parents.

Fortunately, Ford has announced that its next generation of driver assistance technology will include self-stopping pedestrian detection. The automaker also plans to offer vehicles with enhanced “evasive steering” assist, aided cross-traffic negotiation, and advanced self-parking. While these safety features sound great in theory, they may forbid drivers from using their vehicle as a deadly weapon on public roads — at least on their own terms.

Likely stemming from Ford’s autonomous driving R&D efforts, the next generation of driver assists range from parking help to automatically creeping through traffic. One thing they don’t include is wanton destruction and vehicular mayhem.

No more ramming other cars

Designed to function at both city and highway speeds, evasive steering assist is designed to help drivers maneuver around slow or stopped vehicles in order to avoid a collision. It uses radar and a forward-mounted camera to detect vehicles ahead and provides “steering support” to avoid them when the system decides a crash is imminent and the braking distance is inadequate.

The current incarnation of steering assist does allow the driver to take over, most likely in case the system decides to throw you off the road and into an entirely new hazard. Ford doesn’t make it clear how the feature decided where to steer you in the event of a potential crash.

The company is also working on a traffic jam mode for its vehicles. Think of it as cruise control for the absolute worst of conditions. The system helps the driver keep the vehicle centered in their own lane, braking and accelerating with the vehicle ahead. Some high-end automakers already offer a similar feature.

No more hitting pedestrians 

In development now, Ford’s cross-traffic system will detect objects that are about to pass behind the vehicle while it is reversing. An extremely wide-angle rear view camera will allow the driver to see around blind corners, with the system emitting a warning sound if a wayward human or vehicle encroaches.

If none of this stops an oblivious or willfully dangerous driver, the system automatically applies the brakes to avoid crushing a pedestrian. Ford wants this feature to work in tandem with its enhanced parking assist. The company says future vehicles will parallel park and even back into a perpendicular space without any input from the driver.

No more driving directly into oncoming traffic

Using a combination of GPS data and visual information collected by cameras, Ford wants vehicles to alert drivers if they’ve accidentally started driving the wrong way down a one-way street or onto an expressway off-ramp. At the moment, this simply an alert and nothing more. There won’t be anything physically stopping you from doing it beyond a mildly annoying sound.

The automaker is also developing camera-based headlight beam widening and “spotlighting” to offer better stopped and low-speed turning visibility. The latter uses an infrared camera to help detect pedestrians, cyclists, or animals and highlight these potential hazards for drivers.

While still in development, Ford expects the features to appear in new vehicles sometime within the next two years.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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26 Comments on “Ford’s Next-Gen Driver Assist Will Deny You the Right of Running People Over...”

  • avatar

    What if you *need* to run over a zombie? Is there a zombie exception?

    But seriously, what’s it going to do if there’s a squirrel in the road? Is it potentially going to cause you to get rear-ended by another car, instead of nailing the squirrel? What about roadkill? Can it tell what’s already dead, like an armadillo, skunk, opossum, etc?

    • 0 avatar

      I would hope it could tell the difference between a 6 inch high object (dead animal) and a child or adult human.

      Are you just looking for things to hate on?

      • 0 avatar

        No, I’m being serious. If it was a choice between colliding with another vehicle, and running over a squirrel, I’d run over the squirrel. But, I will say, in 39 years of driving, I’ve never run over an animal.

    • 0 avatar

      I, for one, refuse to drive a car that will not allow me to run over pedestrians, motorcyclists, and especially road bikers. I will pay any amount of money in the world to not, not hit road bikers.

  • avatar

    If this becomes standard on certain models or trims, 2 carjackers can just stand in front of and behind the car, and not worry about getting run down while they do their business.

  • avatar

    These are all going to reduce the cost and grief of car accidents. Reduced insurance should more than offset the cost of these systems.

    Given the greater density of traffic it is getting increasingly difficult to safely do maneuvers that used to be easy.

    We sit too far from the front and back ends of cars to adequately monitor what’s going on at intersections etc.

    I hope these systems are implemented to a high standard. I have an aftermarket Mobileye 560. This summer the pedestrian detection warning mistook for a pedestrian, a robin-size bird that flew across just ahead and at hood height. Since the system emitted its most urgent warning it is safe to assume that if it was tied into the brakes it would have caused a panic stop.

  • avatar

    Hopefully these systems will eliminate the wasteful stop-and-go lurching of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Congested traffic would flow better and faster if all the cars crept along at the best speed. People seem incapable of learning how to do this, despite the claims of most drivers that they are superior drivers.

    • 0 avatar

      They’ll make it worse. Like automatic transmission drivers, the computer won’t have any immediate incentive to maintain a steady speed, and will be strictly limited to entirely reactive decision-making. Zero capacity to plan ahead.

      The standing waves in traffic will be epic.

  • avatar

    Maybe I’m not getting the joke here, but the answer to

    >> How many times have you nearly backed your car over a child [..]

    had better be “zero.”

    If you can’t see where you’re going, don’t go.
    If you’re getting in the car, look around.
    If you’re in the car, look around before you back up.

    In the battle between tech and stoopid, I know where my money goes.

    • 0 avatar

      “Maybe I’m not getting the joke here”

      I hope you’re not German; tired stereotypes are tired.

      I’ve met many hilariously satirical Germans of supple wit and comedic perception. I’m taking a class with one now, marvelous woman. She’d be incomprehensible to you. She cracks us Amis up.

    • 0 avatar

      For what it’s worth, the firm that employs me teaches all individuals who drive for the company to avoid backing out of spaces, when possible, by either pulling all the way forward into a space or by backing into a space when parking. Then when one departs the chances of backing into someone or something is minimized.

      Since it seemed to be a good habit, I’ve taught all three of my sons to do the same when parking their vehicles, when possible. In some cases it is not, e.g., angled spaces at a shopping center, but in those instances I try to park toward the back of the lot, which has the additional benefits of reducing door dings and forcing me to walk a little more for health’s sake.

      • 0 avatar

        Comcast requires their drivers to back into spaces when possible and place a cone in front of and behind the vehicle so that the driver needs to walk around the vehicle before moving it.

    • 0 avatar

      And him implying that “dealing with angry parents” was the only notable consequence of (almost?) running children over didn’t tip you off that it was sarcastic in nature?

      You honestly, truly believed that he was saying its a normal situation to ignore your surroundings and run over children? Really?

  • avatar

    Going to save me time since jaywalking will be easier. I won’t have to stop at the streets anymore.

  • avatar

    Is this type of technology for demented people who should have their licenses revoked or just nincompoops? Just what I want, having some easily hackable computer in my Ford Aspire randomly swerving around a possum directly into a Peterbilt. Oh no, I can’t park on my own! Oh I can’t stop texting and taking selfies so I just ran over a bunch of people! Oh wow, staying in my lane is so hard! Whatever happened to taking personal responsibility, using your brain, and driving safely? Honestly, if someone can’t stay in their lane, or park their own car after taking Driver’s Ed they really should not get a license.
    And yes, in a rare but plausible circumstance where someone is being attacked while in their car they would no chance of escape. A couple thugs with baseball bats would have you dead to rights because your car would refuse to budge in the name of public safety.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s actually exactly it right now. Driver assist systems as they exist now are an aid for distracted, exhausted and inebriated drivers. For everyone else they are a very cool toy that is fun to watch but encourages more people to belong to the distracted or exhausted set. I like adaptive cruise and active lane keep, but I think beginning drivers in particular should avoid them like the plague.

      Autonomous braking in forward and reverse directions is a real safety system, both for parking lots and highway environments. That’s the only one that deserves a possible insurance reduction. Be aware that insurance companies will not allow this to result in a reduction of overall revenue however, your cost out of pocket will remain similar, regardless of any specific discounts.

  • avatar

    I tip my hat to the B&B for not making the obvious / tired Mustang vs. pedestrian joke.

    (Unless I just made it.)

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