Ford is trialling connected vehicle technology using geofencing – a virtual geographical boundary – that could one day do away with the need for speed limit signs completely.
As well as potentially making streets safer for other road users and pedestrians, Ford’s Geofencing Speed Limit Control system could help drivers avoid inadvertently incurring speeding fines.
Researchers are using two FordPro vehicles to analyse the impact of speed limiting in terms of improving traffic flow and reducing the risk of accidents. Testing with the all-electric Ford E-Transit vans extends to all 30km/h zones in the centre of Cologne, in Germany, as well as in selected 50 km/h and 30 km/h zones elsewhere in the city.
The trial is the result of a collaboration between the Ford City Engagement team, city officials in Cologne and Aachen, and Ford software engineers in Palo Alto, in the US. Together with colleagues in Aachen, the Palo Alto engineers developed technology that connects the vehicle to the geofencing system for GPS tracking and data exchange.
The driver receives the information via the dashboard display cluster, with the new speed limit flashing below the current speed. The vehicle automatically reduces speed in line with the geofenced zone. The driver can override the system and deactivate the speed limit control at any time.
In future, Ford’s Geofencing Speed Limit Control system could enable drivers to set their own geofencing zones at speeds as low as 20 km/h, including at depots and private facilities. Speed limits could also be set dynamically, to take into account local hazards, temporary road works and the time of day.
The 12-month trial builds on other recent Ford research projects that endeavour to help improve road safety, including connected traffic light tech that could automatically go green to offer clearer routes for ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles, and the use of specific speakers inside the vehicle to alert drivers to the direction from which people and objects are approaching.
Says Michael Huynh, manager, City Engagement Germany, Ford of Europe:
“Connected vehicle technology has the proven potential to help make everyday driving easier and safer to benefit everyone, not just the person behind the wheel.”
“Geofencing can ensure speeds are reduced where – and even when – necessary to help improve safety and create a more pleasant environment.”
In Europe, up to 29 per cent of road fatalities are pedestrians and cyclists, depending on the country. Setting up 30 km/h zones is considered one of the key measures to reduce the risk to pedestrians in urban areas, as drivers have more time to react and the impact speed is lower.
Ford is also using geofencing technology to improve air quality in cities, ensuring that the Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid electric vehicle runs automatically in zero-emission electric-drive mode whenever the vehicle enters a low‑emission zone.