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Ford brings fitness lessons to driving behaviour

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Rewarding good drivers with reduced travel costs is the idea behind a new Ford Smart Mobility experiment that takes a similar approach to achieving goals as that employed by fitness and exercise apps.

The Ford-led Driver Behaviour Project explores providing drivers with a personal score, based on various driver inputs, and accessed via a prototype smartphone app. This type of research could lead to cheaper car-hire and car-sharing, and provide insurers with information required to support discounts.

“Like an activity-tracking app that shows the distance we cover and calories we burn, a personal driver score encourages people to drive smarter,” said Jonathan Scott, project lead, Ford Smart Mobility. “We wanted to better understand how people use our products so we could help them to improve that behaviour – and a score, combined with guidance, makes it easier to improve.”

Over a four-month period, plug-in devices gathered data from more than 40 Ford Fiestas, driven by volunteers in London, to record actions that each driver took over 160,000 kilometres and more than 4,000 hours. This included detailing the slightest turn of the steering wheel and harsh braking, as well as time of day, weather, and road history.

Ford’s perspective is that customers own their data and the company is exploring ways that customers can use this data to their advantage. For this project, the vehicle data empowers drivers with their personal driving score, based on activities such as steady acceleration and steering smoothly.

The app enables drivers to see how different driving behaviours affected that score, and offers insights to help improve – such as driving in the correct gear. It also calculates a score for each journey based on the driver’s interaction with the vehicle, as judged via the data received on accelerating, braking, and steering. The score changes according to the results of each journey, with a graph showing the trend over time, enabling drivers to see on which days their scores were higher or lower.

Both Ford’s data scientists and transport data experts, Transport API, will now analyse the data to gain further insights. In addition to the vehicle-specific data, global design company IDEO was engaged to research what people say, think, feel and do when behind the wheel. This showed a significant difference between how people think they drive, and how they actually do drive.

“From the vehicle data and research gathered, we were able to test an internally developed, highly advanced driving score algorithm. The score could be used to develop a mobility profile, enabling drivers to save money on services tailored to their needs,” Scott added.

Ford is currently expanding into both an auto and a mobility company; as such the company is aggressively pursuing emerging opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility – its plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience, and data and analytics. The Driver Behaviour Project could help to enhance current mobility solutions, including the on-demand GoDrive car sharing service and the on demand ride sharing service GoRide.

Identifying driver stress

The project team also is studying how driving affects the physical and emotional states of another group of volunteers in the U.K., at the University of Nottingham. This research is exploring ways to help people become better drivers.

Volunteers are subjected to a series of driving situations, both using a driving simulator and real world driving, during which their heart rates, eye movements, and brain patterns are monitored. The research highlights when drivers are nervous or stressed, such as in heavy traffic, or when larger vehicles reduce visibility.

Changing the way the world moves

Ford is demonstrating the Driver Behaviour Project, along with Ford Smart Mobility services and the company’s new mobility experience platform FordPass at London Technology Week, with events taking place across the city from June 20-26.

Also on show is smart parking system GoPark, soon to be available with a new space-finding function. Portable hardware devices plugged into participating vehicles will help to identify vehicle locations and enable a powerful, probability-based algorithm to let members know the likelihood there will be a space free at their chosen destination.

As headline sponsor of London Technology Week, the company is hosting the panel discussion and networking session “Changing the way the world moves” at 16:30 CET, on June 21, at the Vinyl Factory, in Soho. Mobility and technology experts from Transport for London, the geocoding system What3Words, technology focused merchant bank Lepe Partners and IDEO will be among the panellists. The session will be moderated by startup expert, connector and advisor Bindi Karia. Guests also will be able to talk to Mike Nakrani, head of Ford Smart Mobility Europe, and other Ford Smart Mobility project leads.

Cars

Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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