Ford has tested ‘Smart Traffic Lights’ that can automatically turn green to provide clearer routes for emergency services and reduce the risk of accidents.
In emergency situations, traffic delays can be fatal for first responders. Now Ford has put its connected traffic light technology to the test, which could clear a path for approaching ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles.
Ford said that in addition to reducing delays, accidents caused by first responders driving through red lights can also be avoided. In addition, congestion can be reduced by having traffic lights send the red-green timing information to approaching vehicles, improving traffic flow.
The trial was part of a wider project that includes testing automated and connected vehicles and network infrastructure in highways, urban and rural areas as part of the company’s ambitions to improve the driving experience through connectivity and innovation.
To test the Smart Traffic Lights, Ford used a road with eight consecutive traffic lights in Aachen, Germany, and two stretches with three consecutive traffic lights just outside the city, all constructed by the project partners.
The Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid test vehicle was equipped with built-in infrastructure communication units and rapid prototype verification hardware to run the prototype software in the vehicle. It acted as an ambulance and passenger car for various test scenarios.
To test an emergency response situation, the test vehicle gave a signal to the traffic lights to make the light green. After the vehicle passed the intersection, the traffic lights returned to normal operation, Ford said.
The test vehicle received the timing information for when the lights went from red to green and green to red, for testing daily driving situations. Ford’s Adaptive Cruise Control technology then adjusted the vehicle’s speed to ensure that more of the traffic got the green light.
When the traffic light was red, the vehicle’s speed was reduced well before the intersection to time the vehicle’s approach to arrive at the traffic light when it turned green, e.g. from 50 mph to 20 mph.
This communication between vehicles and traffic lights is enabled by Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) technology, a unified platform that connects vehicles to roadside infrastructure, other vehicles and road users.
“Exchanging data in real time between cars, emergency vehicles and traffic lights 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 reduces CO2 emissions.”