Speed limit signs may become obsolete in the near future, as Ford is testing connected vehicle technology that could automatically reduce a car’s speed in certain zones to improve road safety.
According to a 2020 report by the European Transport Safety Council, pedestrians and cyclists account for up to 29 percent of all road fatalities in Europe, depending on the country. Lowering speed limits in certain areas is one of the most important measures to reduce road accidents.
Ford is now testing its new Geofencing Speed Limit Control system in two German cities, Cologne and Aachen, to see if it can help make streets safer for other road users and pedestrians.
According to the company, the system could also help drivers avoid speeding tickets and improve the appearance of roadsides that lack speed limit signs.
A geofence is a virtual boundary in real-world space. A number of e-scooter companies, including Ireland’s Zipp Mobility, are currently using it to identify specific zones in cities and enforce lower speed limits.
How does it function?
Ford’s new system employs geofencing technology to notify the driver via the dashboard when the vehicle enters an area with a speed limit. It then automatically reduces the vehicle speed to match the limit.
At any time, the driver can override the automated system and deactivate speed limit control. They can also use the technology to create their own geofencing zones at speeds as low as 20 kilometres per hour.
“Connected vehicle technology has the proven potential to help make everyday driving easier and safer for everyone, not just the person behind the wheel,” said Michael Huynh, Ford Europe’s manager of City Engagement Germany.
“Geofencing can help to improve safety and create a more pleasant environment by ensuring speeds are reduced where – and even when – necessary.”
Ford already has built-in assistance technologies that help drivers stay within speed limits. The new geofencing speed limit control system, on the other hand, is the first to automatically reduce a vehicle’s speed without the driver’s intervention.
Keep your eyes on the road.
The system is currently being tested for a year by the Ford City Engagement team, city officials in Cologne and Aachen, and Ford software engineers in Palo Alto, California.
Researchers are now using two Ford E-Transit all-electric vans to study the impact of speed limiting on traffic flow and accident reduction.
The Palo Alto engineers collaborated with colleagues in Aachen to develop technology that connects the vehicle to the geofencing system for GPS tracking and data exchange.
There are over 1,000 different types of road signs in Germany, which can often confuse drivers and distract them from the road ahead. Ford stated that geofencing technologies, such as its new system, could assist drivers in remaining focused.
“Our drivers should benefit from cutting-edge technology, such as geofencing-based assistant systems that allow them to stay within speed limits and fully concentrate on the road,” said Dr Bert Schröer of AWB, a Cologne waste disposal company involved in the trial.