Driving enthusiasts will shudder to think of a car that will automatically slow them down to obey speed limits. But Ford has done just that with their new S-Max model now shipping in selected European markets.
The vehicle’s Intelligent Speed Limiter is comprised of image recognition technology that can read speed limits on signs in proximity to the vehicle and adjust the amount of fuel being sent to the engine, thus reducing engine output and slowing the vehicle as needed. Similar technology is already available on Ford’s Focus, Mondeo and Kuga SUV models in Europe.
Image recognitions systems have improved greatly over the past couple of years, as automakers utilize them for advanced collision and pedestrian avoidance systems. Integrating this technology with drivetrain systems is the next logical step toward advanced driver assist, and ultimately self-driving cars. And here is where we enter a new transitional age of the operational “handoff” of the vehicle to its automated drive system based on the driver’s assumed trust that the system will operate properly under all conditions.
All conditions? Let’s assume that a speed limit sign has been tampered with by vandals, increasing a residential speed limit from 25 mph to 125 mpg, or decreasing a highway speed from 65 mph to 25 mph. In either case, the hazards of an automated system relying on image detection alone can be imagined. (Ford has engineered a manual override to the system that allows the driver to take over the vehicle’s speed control as needed.)
We view this technology as promising but in need of integration with redundancy systems that will take over in case the image detection sensors cannot be relied upon. For example, a continuously updated onboard image database can validate what the sensors are reading, matching them to mapping data and/or historical driving patterns in a particular area. As onboard processors work seamlessly with connected cloud-based analytics, vehicle control systems can “learn” from experience and false readings can be bypassed.
Offering such advanced driver assist and automated drivetrain control in lower-cost vehicles is one of the windfalls of achieving volume scale, as other automakers have discovered. Looking beyond suppressing our need for speed, we applaud Ford’s effort to bring advanced driver assist and safety technologies to the masses and not just for those who can afford flagship models.
Editor’s note: Ford has no plans on introducing the S-Max in the U.S. at this time.
Source: Ford’s new car will force you to obey the speed limit – Engadget