The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

Ford Motor Company is advancing automotive electronics with systems designed to serve and protect communities.

* Already a leader in providing police departments nationwide with a first-choice police cruiser - the Crown Victoria, Ford's automotive electronics development is equipping test vehicles with sensors and cameras that can transmit images, road and atmospheric conditions and crash data to police department control centers. * Ford is involved in advanced vehicle digital mobility demonstration projects in several locations including Michigan; and Minnesota and Germany, where real-time rerouting to car navigation systems is being tested successfully.

DEARBORN, May 10 - Ford Motor Company is putting its automotive electronics expertise into service - community service - in several demonstration projects globally.

As part of a disaster simulation exercise in downtown Detroit Wednesday (May 11), a camera-equipped Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser will be on the scene, transmitting real-time images to the Dearborn Heights Police Department more than 12 miles away. In addition, the vehicle, equipped with Automatic Collision Notification (ACN) and Atmospheric Condition Monitoring (ACM) sensors, will be tracked on a Web based GPS system in the station's Emergency Operations Center. Ford also will provide three portable camera boxes, mounted at various locations to monitor emergency response needs and transmit images - in this case, at Garden City Hospital - as well.

"Implementing this system with the Dearborn Heights Police Department is a natural progression from work we've been doing in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and in our research labs for a couple of years now," said Ron Miller, technical leader, intelligent vehicle technologies at Ford. "We are increasingly applying sensors in our vehicles. The addition of cameras, along with sensors, to aid police response in Dearborn Heights takes this to yet another new dimension."

In Dearborn Heights, Ford has equipped two Crown Victorias - a traffic cruiser and supervisor's car, with cameras and sensors. The vehicles transmit camera images every 15 seconds via the Internet to television and computer monitors in the Dearborn Heights police station. The ACN sensors provide automatic notification if either vehicle is involved in a collision, and the ACM sensors transmit road temperatures and atmospheric pressures. Additional sensors, capable of detecting the presence of nuclear, biological or chemical agents could be added to provide further safeguards to the community.

Dearborn Heights Deputy Chief James Lazar said he thinks the new technology has the potential to dramatically improve the environment in which police work. "We believe using real-time cameras in police vehicles can have many benefits to officers and the community," he said. "In addition to enhancing our ability to assess and respond to large-scale emergencies, they can become extra eyes for the officer - seeing potential dangers in seemingly routine traffic stops or responses."

Two years ago, Ford and the Minnesota Department of Transportation launched a roadside wireless vehicle information system in Minneapolis/St. Paul that provides real-time weather and traffic data to a traffic management system that communicates with the drivers. The demonstration program, called Vehicle-as-Sensors (VAS), equipped 20 municipal vehicles, including 10 state police cars, with sensors that collect data and convey it to roadside transmitters, which then send the data to a regional Transportation Management Center using the Condition Acquisition Reporting System (CARS). The data is then analyzed by CARS, which in turn, provides officials with critical information necessary to deploy emergency roadside assistance or road maintenance crews. The Transportation Management Center also uses this information to warn drivers of impending road and weather conditions employing either a cellular *511 system or by using the digital messaging signs located on the highways.

"The VAS program is a natural extension of the ITS work Ford and Minnesota began several years ago," said Jim Kranig, director of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Regional Transportation Management Center. More than two years ago, Ford and Minnesota demonstrated real time in-vehicle incident reporting using wireless communication and CARS. These demonstration vehicles also included in-vehicle dynamic routing around these incidents.

"Roadside communication and VAS can provide critical information necessary to help drivers get to where they have to be, and on time," said Gary Strumolo, manager, Ford Vehicle Design Research and Advanced Engineering Department. "They also can provide tremendous assistance to community officials who work to manage traffic and respond to critical situations."

Just last month, Ford's European Research Center in Aachen, Germany, developed and demonstrated a new telematics and navigation system that downloads routing information to individual vehicles to help drivers avoid congested or stopped traffic and receive real-time alerts. Installed in a Ford Galaxy prototype, the system was successfully tested in several German cities in conjunction with a central server prototype.

Ford is even test piloting its sensor technology in its own 'backyard,' equipping company shuttle vans with sensors that allow the dispatch center to track every vehicle in its fleet and streamline traffic flow. The result: a potential 50% increase in efficiency, yielding an estimated cost savings of nearly $1 million.

"We're just scraping the surface when it comes to the potential applications of our automotive electronics research," said Charles Wu, director, Ford Manufacturing and Vehicle Design Research and Advanced Engineering. "I think communities, as well as consumers, will increasingly see the many benefits of mobile sensors in cars and trucks as the technology develops."