Ford LogoEvery day there’s a new breakthrough that is leading us closer and closer to automated driving.

Ford’s wrong way detection may be one of the most important for human drivers. If a car goes against traffic flow, an accident is bound to happen, and an individual is most likely going to be sending their car to the recyclers. These types of crashes lead to auto recycling well before the vehicle’s normal expiration date. The cost in terms of medical care and loss of life make it critical to stop these mistakes from happening.

When a car rushes against the flow of traffic, quick thinking may not be enough to prevent a deadly accident. The driver could be impaired by drugs or alcohol or perhaps be suffering a heart attack or other medical problem. Distracted driving, i.e. texting or other smartphone use, is a growing problem in our society. Weather may be another culprit. Rain, fog, sleet or snow can cause even the most alert drivers to miss an important sign. At the time of impact, fault doesn’t matter. It’s the human cost that counts the most.

New Technology

Technology may be able to do what a simple sign cannot. Ford has announced its Wrong-Way Alert to help drivers avoid making this deadly mistake. Using a windshield-mounted camera, equipped vehicles will recognize Do Not Enter and Wrong Way signs. Then it will pair the information with data from the car’s navigation. If the car travels against the flow of traffic, the driver will receive visible and audible warnings. The hope is that these will deter the driver before a wreck situation can happen.

Other warning systems have been proven effective at preventing collision scenarios. A forward collision alert is a common safety extra. It’s even standard on the Toyota Corolla, a first among affordable vehicles. Another common alert is the lane watch, detecting the lane lines. When these two warning systems first came out, they were considered revolutionary, but now alerts alone are not considered enough. The latest line of defense has been to add automation. Now the collision warning is paired with an auto-brake, and the lane watch is paired with a steering assist. The automated feature reacts when the driver doesn’t respond fast enough. Unfortunately, the Wrong-Way Alert hasn’t developed that far, and it can’t stop the driver from going against the flow of traffic. Still, this promising invention will give drivers a chance to correct their mistake before the worst can happen.

The Wrong-Way Alert isn’t on the market yet. The projected wait time is two years. In the meantime, many vehicles do have traffic sign recognition. Equipped cars can notify the driver about speed limit, stop, yield, and do not enter signs. This is common with certain expensive cars by Mercedes-Benz, Audi, BMW, Volvo, and other luxury automakers. However, Fords, Mazdas, and Hondas are now offering similar technology, bringing this important feature to more affordable vehicles. To make sure that drivers see the sign, it is often illuminated on the Head Up display on the windshield.

Other Technological Advances

Ford is definitely pushing forward with other crash avoidance initiatives as well as its Wrong-Way Alert. Using radar and cameras, Ford plans to supplement crash-avoidance automatic braking a feature it’s calling Evasive Steering Assist. This could prevent a typical frontal collision. Ford plans for this to be a driver-initiated feature. Reportedly it will work at city and interstate speeds.

Ford is developing Traffic Jam Assist which may be for slow-speed driving what adaptive cruise control is for interstate cruising. The company is also developing camera-based lighting systems. These may change how the high-beams are directed at intersections or roundabouts, and it may also add an infrared camera for spot lighting to detect pedestrians. Daytime pedestrian detection systems have quickly come online in the last year, strengthening forward collision warning technology on affordable cars from Chevy to Hyundai.

The Wrong-Way Alert is sure to be a welcome safety device when it does make it to market. Until then, drivers need to remain especially alert to do not enter signs.