Many cities and towns limit speeds around schools, hospitals and shopping areas. Seeing the signs, however, can depend on how visible they are, whether they are concealed by branches, or maybe surrounded by a cluster of other signs.
Now, Ford is trialling connected vehicle technology using geofencing – a virtual geographical boundary – which it claims could one day do away with the need for speed limit signs completely, as well as helping drivers avoid speeding fines.
Researchers are using two Ford Pro vehicles to analyse the impact of speed limiting in terms of improving traffic flow and reducing the risk of accidents. Testing with the all-electric Ford E-Transit vans extends to all 30km/h zones in the centre of Cologne, Germany, as well as in selected 50 and 30 km/h zones elsewhere in the city.
The trial is the result of a collaboration between the Ford City Engagement team, city officials in Cologne and Aachen, and Ford software engineers in Palo Alto, USA. Together with colleagues in Aachen, the Palo Alto engineers developed technology that connects the vehicle to the geofencing system for GPS tracking and data exchange.
The driver receives the information via the dashboard display cluster, with the new speed limit flashing below the current speed. The vehicle automatically reduces speed in line with the geofenced zone. The driver can override the system and deactivate the speed limit control at any time.
In the future, Ford says its Geofencing Speed Limit Control system could enable drivers to set their own geofencing zones at speeds as low as 20 km/h, including at depots and private facilities. Speed limits could also be set dynamically, to take into account local hazards, temporary road works and the time of day.
According to Ford, reducing the number of signs on the roads could go a long way towards decluttering cities, with drivers able to concentrate on the roads rather than keep watch for signs.
The trial runs until March 2023 and is part of broader research initiatives putting pre-production and prototype Ford E-Transit vehicles to the test across a variety of intensive real-world operating scenarios, including in the postal, municipal and utilities services, as well as last mile and grocery delivery sectors within France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and the UK.