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Ford seeks smartphone-based safety tech to alert drivers of nearby pedestrians

Ford Motor Company and a slew of tech partners are working to develop a smartphone application that will alert drivers of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other potential collision risks, even when they’re not in the driver’s view.

The smartphone-based communication technology will work with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) messaging. The application will run on pedestrians’ or bicyclists’ smartphones and communicate their location to a connected Ford vehicle. Ford SYNC can then alert drivers with graphics and audio alerts sent to the in-vehicle screen.

BLE technology is already used in personal devices, such as smartphones, fitness monitoring devices, location-based services, and more. It typically relies on pairing two devices to work. Still, the concept application would use BLE as a beacon capable of sensing similarly equipped devices without needing to pair. The system differentiates pedestrians and bicyclists based on their traveling speed and evaluates risk based on their direction.

Ford is working to develop the technology with Commsignia, PSS, Ohio State University, T-Mobile, and Tome software. A demonstration will occur at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s World Congress, held this week in Los Angeles.

“Newer Ford vehicles already with Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology can detect and help warn drivers of pedestrians, bicyclists, scooter riders, and others – and even apply brakes if drivers do not respond in time,” said Jim Buczkowski, Executive Director of Research and Advanced Engineering for Ford.

“We are now exploring ways to expand vehicle sensing capability, for areas drivers cannot see, to help people drive even more confidently on roads increasingly shared by others using their two feet or two wheels,” he added.

Ford is a founding member of the Vulnerable Road User Safety Consortium (VRUSC), formed by vehicle, bicycle, ridesharing, and technology companies to develop solutions to increasing crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians.

The NHTSA estimates that traffic fatalities increased 13% in 2021 over the previous year, totaling 7,342. Bicyclist traffic fatalities hit 1,000, a 5% increase, in the same period.


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