Ford imagines a future without traffic lights or stop signs

What if you never had to stop at a red light again? Ford believes future connected cars could coordinate their movements in order to pass through intersections without stopping. Ford believes this could save time and reduce crashes. It’s testing that idea in the United Kingdom.

Ford’s experimental “Intersection Priority Management” system is currently being demonstrated on the streets of Milton Keynes. The system uses vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V), a Wi-Fi-like communications medium that allows cars to send and receive signals.

In this case, cars are able to broadcast their location, direction of travel, and speed. Software analyzes the trajectory of nearby vehicles and suggests an optimum speed for each vehicle to negotiate the intersection without stopping, according to Ford. The cars in this test have human drivers, but Ford hopes to eventually apply this system to autonomous vehicles. Networking all self-driving cars with V2V could potentially eliminate the need for traffic lights and stop signs, Ford said in a statement.

Ford has showcased a number of other possible uses for V2V and related V2X (vehicle-to-everything) in the U.K. under a two-year research program that is currently wrapping up. The automaker claims to have tested a system that warns drivers of an impending collision when approaching an intersection, one that helps cars synchronize with green lights, and a system that tells drivers the location and distance of approaching emergency vehicles.

V2V and V2X are often touted by automakers as a way to improve safety and increase convenience. Currently being tested in Marysville, Ohio, Honda’s experimental “Smart Intersection” system uses V2X to connect cars with cameras mounted on nearby building and posts. The cameras have a better vantage point than drivers do from behind the wheel, so the system allows drivers to virtually “see” around corners, potentially avoiding collisions.

Systems like the ones being demonstrated by Ford and Honda show the promise of V2V and V2X, but the technology may be difficult to implement on a large scale. To get the full benefit, the majority of cars and other vehicles will need to be equipped with the necessary hardware, as will intersections and other related infrastructure. While some automakers have started doing this, V2V-equipped cars are definitely in the minority. Given the low-priority status of infrastructure spending in the United States, it seems unlikely that government agencies will begin adding cameras and other hardware to intersections en masse.

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