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MWC: Ford unveils new car, new vision

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At this week’s Mobile World Congress, Ford unveiled the new Kuga SUV and also announced various new advancements towards its fully autonomous vehicle.

Ford CEO Mark Fields this week unveiled the new Kuga SUV at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and committed to tripling Ford’s engineering investment in semi-autonomous vehicle technologies as the company continues to expand its Ford Smart Mobility plan.

Fields’ keynote at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona focused on Ford’s transition from an automotive company to an auto and a mobility company through Ford Smart Mobility – the company’s plan to be a leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, customer experience, and data and analytics.

Fields also confirmed FordPass, the company’s new customer experience platform, debuts this year in Europe. New partners for FordPass include BP and Mobile City, a leading mobile parking payment company. FordPass also will integrate Ford Carsharing, run with Germany’s Flinkster Carsharing.

“As we look to the future, it is clear we are on the cusp of a revolution in mobility – from car sharing to autonomous driving to the customer experience,” Fields said. “Technology and innovation provide us with the opportunity to address these trends and to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”

Ford provided the following information:

The new Kuga

The sophisticated new Kuga will offer technologies and updates to make driving simpler, safer, more enjoyable and more affordable. These include Ford’s new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system, innovative driver assistance technologies, an ergonomic and comfortable interior and a new 120 PS 1.5-litre TDCi diesel engine.

The bold and sporty new Kuga that debuts at Mobile World Congress also will offer Ford’s Perpendicular Parking technology that helps drivers park hands-free in spaces alongside other cars; an enhanced version of the Active City Stop collision avoidance system; and Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting System for optimised visibility in low light. Further sophisticated technologies include Hands-Free Liftgate and Ford Intelligent All Wheel Drive.

Ford is tripling its driver assist technology engineering investment to make it easier to drive in heavy traffic and park, while developing fully autonomous vehicles for the future. The significant increase in investment announced today will enable Ford to research and develop driver assist technology that transfer more driving tasks to the vehicle and provide more comfort and safety to the driver.

These will include Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist that Fields announced Ford will roll out in the next three years.

Autonomous vehicles

Ford is taking two distinct pathways toward vehicle automation. First, the company has a dedicated team developing driver assist technology that is focused on delivering increasing levels of automation.

Traffic Jam Assist helps the driver with steering, braking and acceleration in heavily congested traffic situations on motorways. Easily activated by pushing a button, the system helps keep the vehicle centred in the lane and brakes and accelerates to keep pace with the vehicle in front.

Fully Active Park Assist will help drivers by steering and controlling the transmission, throttle and brake to seamlessly pull into a parking spot at the touch of a button.

Further semi-autonomous technologies already introduced by Ford include  Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection, a camera- and radar-based system that detects vehicles and people in the road ahead; and Intelligent Speed Limiter, which could help prevent drivers from exceeding speed limits, and potentially from incurring costly speeding penalties.

“The use of semi-autonomous functions such as Traffic Jam Assist and Fully Active Park Assist make driving easier and more enjoyable for our customers,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

As for the future, Ford also has a dedicated fully autonomous vehicle programme in Aachen, Germany, and in Palo Alto, California, and Dearborn, Michigan, in the U.S., with more than a decade of experience.

Ford is seeking to deliver autonomous capability that does not require driver input described by the SAE International as Level 4 of automation. At this level of capability, autonomous vehicles will likely be offered first in climates that support optimal sensor performance and in areas that have been mapped in high resolution 3D.

Already, Ford is the first automaker to test fully autonomous vehicles in winter weather, including snow, and recently announced plans to triple the company’s autonomous vehicle development fleet making it the largest of all automakers.

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“We are committed to making autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” Washington said. “Within well-defined areas and with favourable environmental conditions, we predict that fully autonomous driving will be possible within four years, and that autonomous vehicles will play a significant role in making travel safer, more enjoyable, and more accessible.”

A new customer experience

FordPass features four elements. A Marketplace offering access to mobility services and partners; trusted and knowledgeable FordGuides who are always there to help members to resolve mobility challenges; Appreciation, where members are recognised for their loyalty; and FordHubs, where consumers can experience new innovations.*

Through FordPass owners will be able to manage their vehicle, including scheduling maintenance services. The partnerships announced today will bring significant benefits to FordPass members as follows:

  • The partnership with BP will reward members with exclusive offers and geolocation services, adding to loyalty partners including McDonalds and 7-Eleven. In the future, FordPass may enable members to search for nearby BP locations based on facilities available. Ford and BP can envision helping members to fill up at the right time and in the right place. This might for example include members remaining comfortable inside a vehicle and not stand outside in the cold or the heat, while a robot does the refuelling
  • Through its existing partnership with Flinkster, one of the biggest car sharing companies in Germany incorporating dealerships, FordPass will offer 24-hour access to more than 4,000 cars country-wide. This includes Ford Carsharing’s fleet of 190 vehicles, from Transit to Fiesta, and Flinkster’s own fleet of cars, most of which are Ford vehicles
  • Parkopedia, the global database for parking spaces, allows all FordPass members to search for parking, based on location, cost, availability and user ratings. In addition, as an on-street parking payment provider, Mobile City will help to provide a more seamless parking experience by enabling drivers to pay fees through FordPass . That could mean no need to keep coins, or for the right change, and beyond that – supporting a future that could see members’ cars park themselves in off-street facilities

“This all-new platform that we are launching in Europe later this year is really about listening to people’s needs and developing ways to help them move better. It’s also about convenience, connecting consumers with the world and making it all incredibly easy,” Fields said.

Mobility – new ways of getting about

As part of Ford Smart Mobility, the company is working to expand the range of car-sharing and parking services offered in European cities and towns.

In London, with its new GoPark pilot, Ford is building a predictive parking system – capable of directing drivers to streets where they’re most likely to find a space. A group of residents from the borough of Islington have volunteered to take part – with their cars being equipped with plug-in devices to give live data for traffic and parking conditions. The pilot includes both Ford and non-Ford vehicles.

Also in London, Ford’s on-demand GoDrive car-sharing pilot is now trialling on-street parking on certain streets. Since launching last year, the service has expanded to 25 hubs across the city, each with guaranteed parking, at locations that include London Waterloo railway station and London City Airport.

In Germany, bookings for Ford Carsharing, designed to serve small and medium sized cities, as well as large towns, were up by 76 per cent in 2015, with customers already driving more than 1 million kilometres in total during the year. The service is offered by Ford Germany and their dealers with 170 Ford Carsharing stations all over Germany.

Connectivity, data and analytics

Ford also at Mobile World Congress demonstrated on the new Kuga, for the first time in Europe, its new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system. SYNC 3 allows drivers to control audio, navigation, and climate functions plus connected smartphones using simple, conversational voice commands.

The company announced new apps for the system that can be voice-activated using SYNC AppLink, and include enabling drivers to earn money by transporting packages. The MyBoxMan app enables drivers delivering a package for others to earn around ?5-8 for a typical five kilometre journey.**

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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