Ford Smart Traffic Lights ease flow and assist EMS

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Carmaker Ford has revealed details of its Smart Traffic Light system, which it says can ease the flow of traffic and assist the passage of emergency vehicles at junctions.

The system uses C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything) technology, a unified platform that connects vehicles to roadside infrastructure, as well as other vehicles and road users. For emergency vehicles approaching a junction, the smart traffic lights can alter the signals to ensure the safe, rapid passage of ambulances, fire engines and police cars. For ordinary traffic, the system can optimise the speed at which vehicles approach traffic lights using adaptive cruise control, ensuring that a higher proportion of green lights are encountered at junctions.

To test the Smart Traffic Lights, Ford utilised a road with eight consecutive traffic lights in Aachen, Germany, and two stretches with three consecutive traffic lights just outside the city, all set up by the project’s partners.

A Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid test vehicle was equipped with onboard units for communicating with the infrastructure and rapid control prototyping hardware for running the prototype software in the vehicle. It acted as an ambulance and passenger vehicle for different test scenarios.

For testing an emergency response situation, the test vehicle signalled to the traffic lights to turn the light green. Once the vehicle passed through the junction, the traffic lights returned to standard operation.

“Whether it’s a fire engine attending a blaze or an ambulance that is en route to an accident, the last thing anyone wants is for these drivers to be caught up among other vehicles waiting for the lights to change,” said Ford Europe’s Martin Sommer, an Automated Driving research engineer.

In a separate test to simulate regular driving situations, the vehicle received the timing information for when lights turned from red to green and green to red. Ford’s Adaptive Cruise Control technology then adjusted the vehicle’s speed to ensure a higher proportion of traffic encountered a green light. When the traffic light was red, the vehicle’s speed was reduced well ahead of the junction to time the vehicle’s approach to arrive at the light the moment it turned green, for example from 30mph to 20mph.

“Exchanging data between cars, emergency vehicles and traffic lights in real-time using the latest mobile phone technology makes road traffic safer and more efficient,” said Michael Reinartz, director, Consumer Services and Innovation, Vodafone Germany. “Intelligent traffic light control helps save lives when every second counts and also reduces unnecessary waiting times and cuts CO2 emissions.”