Ford’s new cars can read traffic signs and see around corners

Will there be anything left for drivers to do?

The big thing in car technology right now is autonomous driving but that won’t be widespread for many years. In the meantime, cars are becoming smarter and more connected. Last year Ford introduced impressive new technology to read traffic signs, adjust speeds accordingly, and see around corners to improve safety at junctions. The technology has been extremely popular, with 95% of European Ford S-MAX and Ford Galaxy customers choosing the models with the tech equipped. It’s going to be included in new cars moving forward, including the Ford Edge SUV that’s available next month.

Speed limits are being reduced in some European countries and speed cameras are being used more than ever. In the UK, the Parliamentary Transport Committee is advising that new speed cameras are introduced to monitor average speeds along stretches of road so people can’t speed between known cameras. These are already being used in Luxembourg.

Ford’s Intelligent Speed Limiter is a system that controls the maximum speed of your car. You start the system with a button on the steering wheel and you manually set a max speed if you like, but that isn’t new. What’s really cool is that the car reads traffic signs in the environment using the Traffic Sign Recognition System. It reads road signs for speed limits and overtaking restrictions. If the car has on-board navigation, it can assist the system with information that can be useful on smaller roads where there might not be obvious traffic signs. You can see it in action here:

As with many speed-limiting technologies, you can override it by pressing the accelerator hard. Rather than using the brakes, the system controls speed using engine torque. It does this by electronically controlling the amount of fuel used.

“Drivers are not always conscious of speeding, and sometimes only become aware they were going too fast when they see the flash of the camera, receive a fine in the mail or are pulled over by law enforcement,” said Ford safety supervisor Stefan Kappes. “Intelligent Speed Limiter can remove one of the stresses of driving, helping ensure customers remain within the legal speed limit.”

The road signs are read by a windscreen-mounted camera but that isn’t the only camera at work on the S-MAX and Galaxy. There’s a 180-degree camera system on the front grill that lets drivers see around corners at junctions without having to move the car too far forward. This is a great feature as a quarter of drivers involved in accidents at junctions have their view obstructed. It would make driving out of enclosed spaces like garages safer as well. Here it is in action:

It’s a split-view camera that combines the images so that you can see left, right, and ahead all at once. There’s even a little washer that keeps the camera clean. The Front Wide-View Camera also makes it to the Ford Edge that launches next month so expect to see it in new Ford models from now on.

We love that car manufacturers are embracing new sensor, video, and autonomous technologies. Cars are infinitely cooler when they’re using lasers to see in the dark, automatically dodging collisions, and connecting to our smartphones. And of course, all of this technology will come in useful when self-driving cars eventually become the norm.

Main image © Ford