The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Ford Keeps Drivers Alert and Away from Danger

October 2007, by Grace Lauron

Historically, the focus in vehicle safety has been on “passive” systems — safety belts, airbags, and crumple zones. Developing technologies aim to prevent accidents from occurring. Ford is working on precollision accident mitigation and avoidance to address crashes involving such factors as driver distraction and fatigue. Developed jointly by the Ford/Volvo advanced safety engineering teams, new technologies such as Driver Alert Control, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Collision Mitigation by Braking will be available initially on select Volvo products. Plans to cascade these features to other Ford Motor Company products are in progress.

Protect Against Drowsy Driving
According to government studies, driver fatigue is a major traffic safety problem. Driver Alert Control (DAC) is a worldwide passenger vehicle first, primarily designed to help drivers maintain concentration across a wide spectrum of driving conditions. The system begins monitoring at 40 mph and stays active as long as vehicle speed exceeds 37 mph. Once activated, DAC assesses vehicle movement and determines how well the vehicle is tracking within its lane.

“We do not monitor human behavior, but instead the effect that fatigue or decreased concentration has on driving behavior. It gives a reliable indication if something is likely to go wrong and alerts the driver before it is too late,” explains Daniel Levin, project manager for Driver Alert Control at Volvo Cars.

DAC consists of a camera, sensors, and control unit. The camera is installed between the windshield and the interior rear-view mirror and continuously measures the distance between the car and the road lane markings. Once the sensors register the vehicle’s movement, the control unit then stores the information. Depending on DAC’s assessment of vehicle movement, the driver may receive an audible signal alert and a warning message in the vehicle’s information display. The driver can also retrieve driving information from the vehicle’s trip computer. (The starting-point is five bars. The less consistent the driving, the fewer bars remain.)

Cruise On By
Another available option is Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). The control module, mounted at the front of the vehicle, uses radar technology once limited to the aerospace industry.

First launched in automobiles by Jaguar in 1999, ACC maintains cruise speed similar to conventional cruise control, but also helps maintain distance from the vehicle ahead. By operating the throttle and brake systems, the customerselected minimum headway gap is preserved in uneven traffic flow conditions.

Although ACC is a convenience rather than a safety feature, this system enables several other safety features such as Collision Mitigation by Braking (CMbB).

CMbB is designed to help drivers avoid collisions or reduce the severity of a crash. Based on speed and relative distance of objects ahead, CMbB assesses the potential for a collision and provides visual and audible alerts. Drivers can adjust the distance and warning settings, but if the CMbB system identifies an imminent threat that is not responded to, it will automatically precharge or even apply brake force to aid the driver..

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