Ford wants to stop wrong-way drivers

Drive the wrong way, and prepare to be bombarded by alerts.

There are few more terrifying things to see on the road than a vehicle traveling against the flow of traffic. Is the driver drunk or impaired? Are they suffering some kind of medical issue? Was it a mistake? No matter what the reason, the result is a dangerous and unpredictable situation, and one Ford is trying to prevent with a new piece of technology.

Called, simply, Wrong-Way Alert, Ford's new system relies on a windshield-mounted camera to pick up Do Not Enter or Wrong Way signs and pairs it with data from the car's navigation system. If the car starts driving against the flow of traffic, it fires off visible and audible warnings for the driver. Unfortunately, the system stops short of actually intervening or stopping the car from traveling the wrong way.

While Wrong-Way Alert is the headlining feature in Ford's latest tech initiative, it's not the only new safety system coming to market. Think of the company's new Evasive Steering Assist as a supplement to automatic braking, relying on the radar and cameras to prevent a collision when the brakes alone aren't enough to stop the car. But unlike auto braking, the driver initiates ESA by simply turning the steering wheel. The system works at both city and freeway speeds, although Ford didn't offer specifics in what happens to the steering after the driver activates the steering assist.

Ford is also still improving current safety systems. That includes camera-based adaptive lighting systems, which dynamically widen the high-beam headlights at roundabouts and intersections, and "spot lighting," which detects pedestrians with an infrared camera and highlights them with the headlights. A new Traffic Jam Assist is particularly intriguing, because it sounds a lot like slow-speed autonomous driving.

Ford says it plans to bring these technologies to market within two years. Based on the timing, that makes it sound like the safety tech could premiere on the next-gen Ford Focus, but we'd take a grain of salt with that guesstimate.

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