Ford trials Emergency Vehicle Warning Technology at UK Autodrive. (Image: AFP Relaxnews)
UK Autodrive is a British government-sponsored event designed to showcase the breakthroughs carmakers and suppliers based in Britain are making on the road to fully autonomous driving. Jaguar Land Rover is using the event to give its first public demonstration of cars capable of level 4 autonomy — that’s one step away from being able to operate without any human interaction.
And while that technology is still a decade away from a production reality, Ford’s simple connected vehicle feature could potentially go live and save lives tomorrow.
Firefighters, paramedics and the police often struggle to get to an emergency on time because of congestion and other road users who fail to yield in a timely fashion. What’s more, in the UK alone, according to government data, 475 road accidents reported in 2015 involved an emergency services vehicle.
However, if the ambulance or police car could send a signal to other vehicles, warning them that it’s approaching, in which direction it’s travelling and therefore the best time to pull over, many of these accidents could be prevented, while allowing emergency crews to arrive faster.
Unlike autonomous cars, there is already a host of vehicles on the world’s road supporting vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, including Audis, Mercedes, Toyotas and Cadillacs, and more models from more firms will join them over the coming year. As well as helping the emergency services, basic V2V technology can help cars slow down or speed up to avoid traffic light and junction congestion, alert road users as to a car hidden from view around a bend and even warn other drivers as to accidents, traffic flow or slippery road conditions.
For example, Volvo is currently using a fleet of connected cars to help the local government in Gothenburg, Sweden, understand which roads are iciest and most require gritting or snowploughing.
Likewise, Land Rover is trialling a system that records potholes in the road surface and sends the information to road maintenance crews.