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Automated steering through bumper-to-bumper traffic

Published:Sunday | December 21, 2014 | 12:00 AMChad Bryan
File A traffic pile-up along Mandela Highway. Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer Motorists get stuck in a traffic jam in the west bound lane on the Ferry leg of the Mandela Highway around 11:15 yesterday morning. The traffic pile up was apparently caused by work being carried out on the roadway to address damaged caused by recent heavy rains associated with Tropical Storm Nicole.
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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.