Ford uses VIRTTEX to study driver response to safety systems’ warnings

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Ford has also conducted customer driving clinics to test warning systems for its new backup system, the Cross Traffic Alert with Blind Spot Monitoring warning system.

The system, which alerts drivers backing out of a parking space if traffic approaches from the sides, will debut early next year. The system has three warnings – a flashing red light on the side mirror, an audible alert and a written warning on the instrument panel's message centre.

"New technologies such as radar, cameras, lasers and GPS will enable us to offer more safety and convenience features in the future," said Jeff Rupp, manager, Active Safety, Research & Advanced Engineering at Ford's Research & Innovation Centre. "A key is identifying the kinds of warnings that drivers will find both effective and easy to understand."

Ford recently used VIRTTEX to examine driver preferences and reaction times with advanced early-warning systems such as Forward Collision Warning, a radar-based system designed to help avoid or mitigate the effect of rear-end collisions. The study concluded that certain warning systems may elicit a faster reaction time for distracted drivers.

Ford continues to research which of the numerous types of warnings – including audible, visual and tactile or vibrating warnings – are most effective alone or in combinations, how soon before a possible incident the warnings should be issued and the intensity of those warnings.

Initial studies indicate that while early warnings can be useful for distracted drivers, they can frustrate attentive drivers by warning of dangers they've already anticipated.

AdvanceTrac with RSC:

This system uses twogyroscopic sensors – one to detect, measure and help counter yaw (or side-to-side skidding), and an additional roll rate sensor to accurately measure the vehicle's roll motion. If a significant roll angle is detected, the system applies additional countermeasures to enhance vehicle rollover resistance.

Collision mitigation with braking:

Ford believes this will be an important safety advance in the next five years. The system uses forward-looking radar to gauge an impending frontal crash. If a potential collision is detected, a warning is given via audio and visual alerts. Then, the system augments the driver's braking by automatically supplying additional brake pressure to further reduce the vehicle's speed.

Crash avoidance metrics partnership:

As part of its involvement in the Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership team of government and industry leaders studying active safety technologies, Ford is building a "smart" intersection on its engineering campus to study how best safety technologies can be integrated with intelligent infrastructures.The team is also studying vehicle-to-vehicle active technologies that will allow cars to "talk" to each other to better identify potentially unsafe conditions.

How much control should drivers have?

Despite much attention on "driverless" cars, Ford researchers believe drivers want to retain control of their vehicles.

"While drivers welcome the information and warnings provided by these types of systems, they remain very sensitive about not wanting to lose control of their vehicle," said Rupp. "We want to first warn them, but if a driver does not respond quickly enough and an accident appears unavoidable, these technologies can intervene."


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