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Ford explores new technology

By raccars Published

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The Detroit Motor Show and CES have shown Ford's commitment to technology. So what's coming?

Ford has started 2016 with a bit of a bang, wowing the crowds at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and at the Detroit Motor Show with innovative ideas to help it become a leader in autonomous driving technology, safety and fuel economy. The firm's EcoBoost engine range is already a leader in the field of smart but efficient engines and has won a number of industry accolades, including the International Engine of the Year award three times. Ford now has four more versions of this power plant under development, which are to be even lighter and even more efficient, using techniques such as carbon fibre construction, cylinder deactivation and electric turbocharging.

Fuel saving - new technology

At the Detroit Motor Show the Ford stand featured a prototype of the new engine, weighing in at 15.5 per cent less than the current unit used in the Focus and Fiesta models. The oil pan and sump used injection moulded carbon fibre and a number of other components were made of aluminium to save about 13kg. Ford believes that these innovations should shave about 5 per cent from its current emissions and economy figures.

At the moment the cost of development is preventing the widespread commercial uptake of the new tech but time and market forces will inevitably advance the availability of these ideas.

Autonomous driving technology

Meanwhile Ford is working with a 30 strong fleet of autonomous vehicles at the 32 acre University of Michigan test facility, where a realistic urban setting has been built and manufacturers can trial their new tech in a simulated real world environment, including bad weather situations. Ford is the first company to attempt autonomous vehicle testing in the snow.

Ford has been testing a new kind of navigation system for autonomous tech, which uses high resolution maps to create an accurate 10mm 3D virtual recreation of the surrounding environment, including not only buildings and other infrastructure but also road signs and markings, rather than the usual GPS guided maps and laser sensors. This is designed to provide the car's navigation system with accurate data even if the usual landmarks are unavailable or invisible, for example when they are covered in snow.

Ford's autonomous driving software is also being programmed to evaluate the safety of continuing to drive in adverse weather conditions.

Wearable tech

Also in Michigan at Ford's Dearborn Research and Development centre, a new Automotive Wearable Experiences laboratory has been inaugurated, studying the concept of wearable tech including smart watches, glasses and fitness bracelets, and working out how these could interact with automotive active safety features. Ford is working towards a car which can recognise and respond to the different mental and physical states of a driver, such as increasing the sensitivity of driver assistance features like lane keep assist if it senses that a driver demonstrates low levels of alertness or is tired.

FordPass concierge service

The company has also introduced a new, free to use concierge service called FordPass, which will be available later this year and will allow customers to access various mobility services including software to search for available parking spaces, together with membership of car sharing schemes. Users of FordPass will also have access to FordGuides, a 24 hour mobility assistance system to help customers solve their travel problems while on the move, including mapping alternative routes. The service will also provide a point of contact with dealerships to organise servicing and maintenance and can even access certain automotive functions via Ford's SYNC Connect infotainment interface.

FordPass members will benefit from FordHubs, locations to be situated globally in major cities including London, where they will be able to learn about the mobility services available to them, explore new innovations and join in special events.

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