Ford proposes a future without traffic lights


Vehicle-to-everything communications technology, more commonly referred to as V2X, is poised to change the way cars operate in the very near future.

Numerous automakers are working on V2X systems, some of which are already available. Among those automakers is Ford which thinks the tech could one day eliminate traffic lights. 

The automaker announced Wednesday it will trial an Intersection Priority Management (IPM) system on the streets of Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. The system is Ford's way of demonstrating that cars may not always have to stop for an intersection or traffic sign. Instead, the system suggests speeds that allow a car to pass through an intersection without coming to a complete stop. The technology is inspired by the way humans maneuver through crowds of people. We don't come to a stop as we meander through, but instead adjust our speed to avoid colliding with other people.

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications allows cars in an area to know each other's location, direction of travel and speed, while the IPM system identifies upcoming intersections. The IPM also calculates all of the surrounding cars' paths and produces the optimal speed for each of them to pass through an intersection without colliding or stopping. Researchers previewed a similar system in 2016 using a simulation.

While the technology sounds rather difficult to implement in the real world where not every car on the road will feature V2V technology, it could be a major facet of future self-driving cars. Ford said it's possible that with a system developed for autonomous vehicles, the only time the car would stop is when a rider reaches his or her destination. Ford is first testing the technology with humans behind the wheel, but IPM may not need humans or traffic signals one day.

IPM comes as the government-funded U.K. Autodrive program, which looks at upcoming car technologies, wraps up. Ford has worked to help develop new safety technologies over the past two years and has also shown off an intersection collision warning system and Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory. The latter helps cars synchronize with traffic lights and help avoid red signals.

While Ford works to eliminate traffic lights, Honda is also working on making intersections a safer place. The company has developed a "smart intersection" with V2X technology that can alert drivers of obstacles and help avoid a crash. The technology began testing in Ohio this month.

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