Ford Developing Traffic Jam Fighter

By Jennifer Geiger  on June 27, 2012
We already have cars that can park themselves, and it looks like vehicles that can predict and prevent a traffic jam are just around the corner. Ford is developing a system that enables a vehicle to automatically keep pace with other vehicles, improving the flow of traffic.

Traffic Jam Assist uses several of Ford's current radar and camera systems (active park assist, adaptive cruise control and Lane-Keeping Aid) to help a vehicle keep pace with others in traffic and provide automated steering control so it stays in its current lane. It also detects changing traffic patterns on the road ahead and communicates them to the driver. So far, the prototype system works in highway situations where lanes are clearly marked and there are no pedestrians, bicyclists or animals present.

"Individual simulation studies have found that where 25% of vehicles on a stretch of road are equipped to automatically follow the traffic ahead, journey times can be reduced by 37.5% and delays reduced by 20% — saving millions of gallons of fuel each year," Ford said in a statement.

The automaker hopes this system will reduce driver stress and ease traffic gridlock, especially since traffic jams are on the rise because of population growth around the world.

Honda is also testing a comparable system, and Infiniti offers something similar in several of its vehicles. We tested the Distance Control Assist on the 2013 Infiniti JX. It determines if braking is necessary to keep a specific distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

There's no word yet when Ford's system will make it into production vehicles.

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Assistant Managing Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan.  Email Jennifer