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Ford wants smart cruise that's speed and grade sensitive

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Ford is working to make adaptive cruise control even smarter and more economical for future vehicles. The automaker now has a patent (pdf link) on a system to use information on the grade of the road, traffic data, and a driver's preferences to eke out better fuel mileage over a journey. This solution would essentially put a little hypermiling right into a model's software.

The Blue Oval's patent refers to this tech as "route navigation with optimal speed profile," and the system starts by splitting the way to the driver's ultimate destination into many smaller pieces. Each one is analyzed based on GPS data, and traffic info is also constantly updated. Based on the occupants' preferred travel time, all this info is combined to figure out the most efficient speed for each leg of the journey. All of these calculations are actually more than the car's computers can handle, so some of the math is offloaded to a cloud-based network.

According to Ford, some of the benefits come when tackling hills while diving. Maintaining a single speed when going up and down steep grades isn't the most efficient method, but current technology can't easily make the necessary adjustments. This system uses the GPS data to adapt the vehicle's speed and leave the situation with better fuel economy.

Ford is currently making major investments into autonomous driving technology and has some prestigious partners. While the patent documents don't specifically mention the optimal speed profiles for driverless vehicles, they seem like a natural fit. Over the course of an entire trip, the fuel economy gains would likely be even greater than over a few miles on a relatively flat interstate.

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