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Automated steering in bumper-to-bumper traffic

Published:Sunday | December 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A traffic pile-up along Mandela Highway. - File
In this photo provided by BMW, the new four-seat electric BMW i3 is shown on Sunday, July 28, 2013 in New York. BMW's new electric car has a lightweight carbon-fibre reinforced plastic body and can travel 80 to 100 miles between chargings. - AP

Chad Bryan, Staff Reporter

American multinational automobile manufacturer Ford is developing the first phase of its upcoming traffic-jam assist system, which automatically drives the vehicle in stop-start bumper-to-bumper traffic situations.

It's anybody's guess on which Ford automobile the technology will be making its debut. However, Audi had plans for a system of this nature on its A8 and it has already been featured in the 2014 BMWi3. Mercedes-Benz was the first to demonstrate the technology on its research vehicle.

When the system is operational, the vehicle keeps pace with traffic flow, automatically accelerating and braking as the line of traffic moves along the tarmac. The traffic-jam assist system uses radar and camera technology to accurately manoeuvre the vehicle.

Easy driving

This will leave the driver free to do as he or she wishes and effectively utilise commuting time for productive or leisure purposes. He or she will be free to read the morning dailies, sip some tea and coffee or check their communication devices. In addition to improving traffic flow, the system, therefore, also reduces driver stress.

The technology is an amalgamation of lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise-control systems. Together, they allow the vehicle to follow the flow of traffic while maintaining lane position. However, this is in an environment where there are no pedestrians, cyclists or animals, and the lanes are marked clearly.

Ford expects to debut the technology some time in 2017. The company's engineers are still developing the system to make it more robust, and are also researching to determine the optimal hardware so it can function properly in all traffic situations.