Ford’s smart traffic lights could improve response time of emergency vehicles

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In emergency situations, every second counts. Any obstacle that could cause the response times of emergency vehicles could prove to be fatal. With that in mind, Ford has trialed connected traffic light technology that hat could automatically go green to offer clearer routes for ambulances, fire engines, and police vehicles.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Where did Ford test the smart traffic light technology?

    It was tested at Aachen, Germany.
  • What was the test vehicle used in the exercise?

    Ford used a Kuga crossover SUV.
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    “Whether it’s a fire engine attending a blaze or an ambulance that is en route to an accident, the last thing anyone wants is for these drivers to be caught up among other vehicles waiting for the lights to change,” said Ford Europe Automated Driving Europe Research Engineer Martin Sommer.

    To test the traffic light technology, Ford used a road with eight consecutive traffic lights in Aachen, Germany, and two stretches with three consecutive traffic lights just outside the city, all set up by the project’s partners.

    The European arm of the Blue Oval brand used a Ford Kuga — aka Escape — Plug-In Hybrid as a test vehicle. It was equipped with onboard units and rapid control prototyping hardware that would allow the test vehicle to communicate with the surrounding traffic light infrastructure.

    For testing an emergency response situation, the test vehicle signaled to the traffic lights to turn the light green. Once the vehicle passed through the junction, the traffic lights returned to standard operation.

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    “Exchanging data between cars, emergency vehicles, and traffic lights in real-time using the latest mobile phone technology makes road traffic safer and more efficient. Intelligent traffic light control helps save lives when every second counts and also reduces unnecessary waiting times and cuts CO2 emissions,” said Vodafone Germany Consumer Services and Innovation Director Michael Reinartz.

    According to Ford, congestion, as well, could be reduced with traffic lights sending the red-green timing information to approaching vehicles.

    They also tested the technology for daily driving situations where they gave the test vehicle the timing information for when the traffic lights turned from red to green and green to red. Ford’s Adaptive Cruise Control technology then adapted the vehicle’s speed to help ensure a higher proportion of traffic encountered a green light.

    When the traffic light was red, the vehicle’s speed was reduced well ahead of the junction to time the vehicle’s approach to arrive at the light the moment it turned green, for example from 50kph to 30kph.

    The trial was part of a broader project that involved testing automated and connected vehicles and networked infrastructure in highway, urban and rural areas. This research exemplifies Ford’s commitment to using connectivity and innovation to improve the driving experience.

    Photos from Ford

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