This week sees the opening of the Frankfurt Auto Show, but Ford Motor Company got a jump start on news week with the unveiling of a new concept car at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, Germany this week. While the car itself is not new, the technology on board is a big step towards cars that eventually drive themselves.
Based on a Ford S-Max minivan-ish car, the concept was introduced by Ford CEO Alan Mulally himself at the IFA show. The concept hosts a suite of technologies aimed at automating many driving features.
The heart of this system is a wireless car-to-car communications system using various WiFi networks that communicates road dangers to other vehicles further back. Also on board is an innovative camera and radar system can automatically apply the brakes if it senses a pedestrian. A self-parking system that can maneuver the car into both perpendicular and parallel parking spots, and unpark itself as well, stealing a lot of work from body shops that rely on bad drivers.
As proof that Big Brother watching isn’t always a bad thing, a heart-rate monitor can share important information about your health while driving with your doctor, should you allow it. Ford has demonstrated similar technology in the past, like an alert system that can monitor sleepy drivers and suggest they pull over and get some sleep.
These technologies do not allow the Ford concept to drive by itself, unlike the Google car. Mulally was also careful to not mention any sort of timeline for automated vehicles, candidly explaining how difficult this technology is to develop. The long-term benefits are immense though, and some analysts think self-driving cars can be a trillion (with a T) dollar industry.
For alt-fuel fans like ourselves, self-driving cars can also introduce new ways to utilize new and existing energy resources in the most efficient way possible. But if you ask me, automated cars are still decades away from dealership lots, and could even become a moving goal post, much like hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.
One thing’s for sure though; many automakers are suddenly very keen on the idea of self-driving cars. Is the public as well?