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See It, Hear It, Feel It: Ford Seeks Most Effective Driver Warnings for Active Safety Technology.

-- Ford researchers commit VIRTTEX advanced driving simulator to study drivers' responses to various active safety systems and warnings

-- Research centers on audible, visual and tactile warnings

-- Customer preference drives active technologies such as Ford's new Cross Traffic Alert with Blind Spot Monitoring

-- Collision Mitigation by Braking is expected to be an important safety development in the next five years

DEARBORN, Mich., April 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Researchers at Ford's advanced driving simulator, Virtual Test Track Experiment (VIRTTEX), are devoting much of 2008 to study how active safety technologies in vehicles should alert drivers of potentially dangerous driving incidents.

Ford also conducted customer driving clinics to test warning systems for its new backup system, the Cross Traffic Alert with Blind Spot Monitoring warning system, which alerts drivers backing out of a parking space when traffic is approaching from the sides. The system will debut early next year and has three warnings - a flashing red light on the side mirror, an audible alert and a written warning on the instrument panel's message center. The system makes its debut in early 2009.

"New technologies such as radar, cameras, lasers and GPS will enable us to offer more safety and convenience features in the future," said Jeff Rupp, manager, Active Safety, Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford's Research and Innovation Center. "A key is identifying the kinds of warnings that drivers will find both effective and easy to understand."

Simulator Solutions

This year, VIRTTEX, which debuted in 2001 as the first full-motion driving simulator in North America, is being devoted to studying and developing active safety warning systems. Ford already has studied a number of warnings by leveraging its global active safety expertise in North America and Europe.

For example, Ford recently used VIRTTEX to examine driver preferences and reaction times with advanced early-warning systems such as Forward Collision Warning, a radar based system designed to help avoid or mitigate the effect of rear end collisions. The study concluded that certain warning systems may elicit a faster reaction time for distracted drivers.

Ford continues to research numerous types of warnings - including audible, visual and tactile or vibrating warnings - and whether they are most effective alone or in combinations. The work will help determine how soon before a possible incident warnings should be used, how intense they need to be, and specific patterns of the warnings. Research to date has shown drivers respond more quickly to certain audible alerts that are more intense, thus more authoritative. Early research also shows some preference for a combination of warnings -- audio alerts backed up by visual warning reinforcement.

Ford also is studying the optimal moment to warn a driver in a potentially dangerous situation. Initial studies show early warnings can be useful for distracted drivers, but can frustrate attentive drivers by warning of dangers they've already anticipated.

More safety, faster

Ford is developing active technologies that ultimately may evolve into systems that warn drivers of potentially unsafe conditions and, if they do not act, automatically intervene to help avoid accidents. Ford leading active safety technologies and research include:
 -- AdvanceTrac with RSC: Unlike the competition, this Ford-exclusive
 system uses two gyroscopic sensors - one to detect, measure and help
 counter yaw (or side-to-side skidding), and an additional roll rate
 sensor to accurately measure the vehicle's roll motion. If a
 significant roll angle is detected, the system applies additional
 countermeasures to enhance vehicle rollover resistance. Ford has moved
 to standardize this technology on most crossovers, SUVs and pickups by
 the end of 2008. It will be added as standard equipment to the 2009
 Ford Flex, Escape Hybrid and F-150.

 -- Collision Mitigation with Braking: Ford believes this will be an
 important safety advance in the next five years. Co-developed by
 scientists at Ford's research centers in the U.S. and Europe, the
 system uses forward-looking radar to gauge an impending frontal crash.
 If a potential collision is detected, a warning is given via audio and
 visual alerts. Then, the system augments the driver's braking by
 automatically supplying additional brake pressure to further reduce
 the vehicle's speed.

 -- Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership: Ford also is involved in the
 Crash Avoidance Metrics Partnership team of government and industry
 leaders studying active safety technologies. As part of the effort,
 Ford is building a "smart" intersection on its engineering campus to
 study how best safety technologies can be integrated with intelligent
 infrastructures. The team also is studying vehicle-to-vehicle active
 technologies that will allow cars to "talk" to each other to better
 identify potentially unsafe conditions.

 How much control should drivers have?

Despite much attention on "driverless" cars, Ford researchers believe drivers want to retain control of their driving experience. Ford's active safety technologies are being developed to both help warn drivers of possible accidents and, if necessary, to intervene.

"The driver should always be in control," says Dr. Priya Prasad, Ford Technical Fellow for Safety. "If the driver is taking some type of evasive action, for instance if they want to accelerate, this system is not going to override. But if the driver is not taking sufficient braking action and the system detects an imminent threat of accident or collision, then it will begin decelerating the vehicle."

"While drivers welcome the information and warnings provided by these types of systems, they remain very sensitive about not wanting to lose control of their vehicle," said Rupp. "We want to first warn them, but if a driver does not respond quickly enough and an accident appears unavoidable, these technologies can intervene."

CONTACT: Wes Sherwood, Ford, +1-313-390-5660,

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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 17, 2008
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