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New Fords to steer clear of accidents

Ford has revealed that it is testing a new system that will take away control of steering from the driver when it detects the possibility of a collision. The 'Obstacle Avoidance' system is being trialled at a research centre in Germany. The system is designed to first warn the driver of danger via a graphic display and audible warning. If the driver does not take action to avoid the collision, the system will brake and take over control of the steering to avoid the obstacle.

Ford has revealed that it is testing a new system that will take away control of steering from the driver when it detects the possibility of a collision. The 'Obstacle Avoidance' system is being trialled at a research centre in Germany. The system is designed to first warn the driver of danger via a graphic display and audible warning. If the driver does not take action to avoid the collision, the system will brake and take over control of the steering to avoid the obstacle. It is regarded by some observers as a step towards 'driverless cars'.

The new system will scan the road ahead up to 200m in front of the car, utilising three radars, ultrasonic sensors and a camera. Ford's vice president of product development in Europe, Bard Samardzich, explains the system: "You're driving down the road and a pedestrian or something comes out from either side of your vehicle from your peripheral vision where you don't have a good look at it. Obstacle Avoidance can sense that the pedestrian or that object is coming across the front of your vehicle. If it doesn't sense you responding accordingly in your vehicle by braking or manoeuvring, it will take over."

The proposed Obstacle Avoidance system is the latest in a line of new safety features from Ford. In 2012 the company introduced Lane Keeping Alert, which vibrates the steering wheel when it senses the car leaving a lane without indicating. Ford has also introduced its Active City Stop feature, which reduces urban accidents by applying the brakes when it senses an object in front of the car. The company knows that drivers may resist introduction of technology that removes control of the car from the driver but they point to data which suggests that less than 30% of drivers attempt to steer clear of a rear end collision.

IHS Automotive analyst, Tim Urquhart thinks that the technology will be adopted, saying: "The logic behind the technology is impeccable. Anything that can avoid a potentially dangerous situation that can cause injury or death sounds like a good piece of equipment. Obviously it will come at a price. But there will be less resistance to a piece of technology like this than there will be to the concept of totally driverless cars. But autonomous vehicles are already being tested by Google, Daimler and others and taking steering control in an emergency situation is obviously a pretty significant step along the road."

Despite the positive reception, Ford has not announced a launch date for the technology and says it will conduct further tests.

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