Ford Motor Company recently held a "Caring for Tomorrow" event in Bangkok to showcase its innovative safety technologies. Paul Altamore, Asia-Pacific safety compliance manager for Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, tells The Nation's A
What is Ford’s philosophy in regard to automobile safety technology?
At Ford Motor Company, our philosophy is to make the safety features that customers want and value available on as many products as possible.
This means designing and implementing technologies that we can put in the hands of as many customers as we can, so that around the globe our customers can benefit from the advances in vehicle safety that new technologies enable.
The vehicle of the future will comprise the best combination of driver assistance, crash avoidance, restraint system, and vehicle structural technology. This will give customers the best chance to avoid an accident and reduce the severity of an accident, as well as the best protection if an accident is unavoidable.
It’s not just about implementing the best technology available; it’s about democratising technology so that as many people as possible can access the benefits.
How does Ford foresee the future of safety technology?
Ford will continue to invest in all areas of safety technology, whether it is collision-avoidance technology to help prevent accidents, or vehicle structural and restraint-system enhancement technologies to protect our customers in a crash.
Safety technology will continue to advance in the area of crash-avoidance technology to reduce the likelihood or severity of a crash when it happens. This will occur as more sensing technologies that can detect the road conditions and driver behaviour are integrated into vehicles. The ability for smart and efficient software than can take these inputs and determine the appropriate course of action, such as warning the driver, or taking over from the driver in some cases, will develop in parallel to this.
In the crash environment, smart and weight-efficient materials such as boron steel and new polymers will be widely used to provide stronger occupant-protection cells, along with new restraint technologies such as inflatable rear seat belts.
What are Ford’s innovative auto safety technologies?
In the area of driver-assistance technologies, innovations such as Hill Launch Assist, Active City Stop, Blind Spot Information System, Lane Keep Warning/Assist have been implemented on a number of vehicles. These innovations are designed to reduce the workload for the driver, and to support them in controlling the vehicle and avoiding potential accidents.
For example, Hill Launch Assist helps the driver to take off smoothly and safely on challenging gradients by automatically applying the brakes and holding the vehicle stationary for three seconds, giving the driver time to push the accelerator hard enough to move off safely.
The Blind Spot Information System uses sensors on the side of the vehicle and warning lights in the side mirrors to advise the driver if the lane they intend to move into is clear. This helps make the act of changing lanes safer for the driver.
Lane Keep Warning/Assist advises the driver if they are about to drift out of their lane, and in some cases actively helps them keep within their current lane. This technology assists the driver in tracking correctly through corners or aids in helping them maintain a straight line on straight roads. Ford uses vision detection systems to monitor the road ahead and alerts the driver by vibrating the steering wheel if a lane departure is occurring.
Other Ford technologies such as SYNC and Rear Parking sensors/cameras serve to make the task of driving less complicated and present to the driver information that they can use in a simple and easily understood format.
How do you quantify the potential benefits of safety technologies?
[The key measure is] How much society loses when a person is injured or killed as a result of a traffic accident. In that way, we quantify the potential benefit of a new technology.
The World Health Organisation estimates that globally 1.24 million people die every year in road traffic accidents, and that this is the eighth-largest cause of death on the planet. Among the young, aged from 15 to 29, traffic accidents are estimated to be the leading cause of death, according to the WHO’s “Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013.”
These human losses are many times larger than infrastructure losses, such as damage to a vehicle or roadside equipment. It’s for this reason that we always look at the potential benefit of a new technology from the viewpoint of both reduced likelihood of death and a possible reduction in the severity of injuries.
Ford has always been at the leading edge of implementing new safety technologies in our vehicles, and this approach continues today. Safe vehicles, along with high quality, green and smart vehicles, is what we communicate to our customers about the cars we build. It’s a priority that drives our Engineering teams every day. I know from the conversations and meetings that I have at work daily that the whole company, from the Design Engineers in Melbourne to Mark Fields, our new global CEO in Detroit, knows how important putting a safe vehicle in the hands of ever customer is.
Apart from vehicle safety technology, what other key factors can improve road safety?
Certainly driver behaviour, the quality of road infrastructure, and enforcement of the right laws are critical factors that influence safety, in addition to the vehicle itself.
“Caring for Tomorrow” and “Ford Driving Skills for Life [DSFL]” programmes are an excellent example of how as a company we are trying to influence the best behaviour in people while they use the road network, and to arm them with the information they need to avoid distractions and use the available features in the vehicle to stay safe.
As in many areas of life, education is one key component in making people understand the risks that they face and how to respond to them. The Caring for Tomorrow and DSFL programmes aim to educate current and future customers on how to operate vehicles safely, and make them think about their actions every time they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
In this way, they can get the most pleasure and convenience from the experience of driving our vehicles, while doing it safely.
Does Ford have innovative technologies that can recognise a driver’s mind/behaviour, and technologies that can help adjust/improve bad driving behaviour?
By using sensors placed around the vehicle, in many cases we can detect what the driver is doing and whether this is appropriate for the current road conditions.
Traction control and Antilock Braking Systems were the first systems to work this way. This was later extended to Electronic Stability Control technologies through the addition of vehicle yaw and steering-wheel angle sensors.
Adding proximity-detection technologies such as RADAR, LIDAR and Cameras has now resulted in features on a number of Ford vehicles such as Active City Stop, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information Systems, and Lane Keep Warning/Assist, which are the next generation of driver-assistance technologies.
In each case, adding new sensor technologies that provide their information to smart software allows Ford to detect what the driver is doing, assess the risk against the road environment, communicate this to the driver, and in some cases take evasive action automatically.
In the future, Ford will continue to use the latest components and software technologies to make integrated systems that provide even more benefits to our customers.