Preparing the arrival of the new Focus to the European showrooms later this year, Ford has been testing lately in Paris an advanced version of its Active City Stop system (Ford's automatic braking technology).
Why Paris? Reputed not only as one of the most beautiful cities (with the best cuisine and fashion) in the world, Paris is also one of Europe’s most stressful places to drive in, with some of the toughest driving conditions. No wonder why then!
For the test, Ford relied on professional drivers with local knowledge to run its equipped vehicles along some of the busiest streets of Paris, which are ranked among the 10 most congested in Europe (based on the congestion ranking from the latest TomTom traffic index for Europe). This is particularly true through notorious junctions like the Place de l’Etoile, where 12 major avenues converge around the famous Arc de Triomphe.
Introduced in its current form since 2011 on the compact (lower medium, C-segment) Ford Focus, Ford's Active City Stop system is used today in more than 170,000 Ford vehicles on European roads, as the technology has since been extended to the Fiesta, B-MAX, C-MAX, Grand C-MAX, Kuga, Transit Connect and Tourneo Connect.
Until now, the current version monitored up to a lower speed of 30 km/h (about 18 mph), with a Light Detection And Ranging sensor (lidar) positioned at the top of the windscreen, scanning the area up to around 7.6m ahead of the vehicle for possible obstacles. It can help prevent collisions at speeds up to 10mph (16 km/h), and reduce the severity of impacts at speeds below 30km/h (about 18 mph).
If the vehicle detects a braking, slowing or stationary vehicle in front and a collision is likely, the brakes are pre-charged. If the driver does not react by steering or braking, the brakes are applied automatically with a reduced engine torque. Active City Stop is turned on by default at the start of each new journey but can be switched off by the driver (for obvious safety reasons, the system defaults on when the car is started again). The current Active City Stop version won a Euro NCAP Advanced Reward for safety in 2011.
With the new version, Ford says that the tested "Active City Stop’s light detecting and ranging sensor scans the road ahead 50 times every second (like the current version)", but up to a 50 km/h (30 mph) speed, which is the maximum speed limit in many cities anyway, with the same objective of helping reduce the severity of rear-end collisions, and in some cases even prevent an accident entirely.
Again, if the driver cannot or does not react in time to the slowing or even stopping traffic ahead, the Active City Stop system operates the brakes while reducing also engine torque and alerting the following cars drivers behind by activating the rear hazard lights.
The American carmaker indicated that the Paris tests covered about 4,000 kms (2,500 miles) in five days, with Mondeo and Tourneo Connect prototypes, in challenging real-world environment, with bumper-to-bumper, peak traffic conditions, difficult junctions and drivers pushing through the narrowest gaps. But for the purposes of safety, the automatic braking function was disabled, while engineers were monitoring the system to see when it would have deployed, and to ensure the brakes were only triggered when there was a risk of rear-end collisions. The specific events were examined in more detail using real-time video of the traffic conditions.
Ford added that the new Focus will introduce other advanced technologies for safer and less stressful parking, such as the new Perpendicular Parking that helps drivers reverse hands-free into spaces alongside other cars, the Cross Traffic Alert to warn drivers reversing out of a parking space (from vehicles that may soon be crossing behind them), and the Park-Out Assist which helps drivers when exiting a parallel parking space.
On the longer run, Ford researchers are working on a Fully Assisted Parking Aid that could enable drivers to park with only the push of a button from inside or outside of their car. The American brand also is investigating advanced safety systems based on car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications, including the adoption of an Electronic Emergency Brake Light that could alert drivers even around corners and through traffic.