While some grey nomads may dream of the day a ‘self-driving RV’ is able to take away the stresses of a long day behind the wheel, the reality is that affordable ‘autonomous’ vehicles are still some way off.
But that’s not to say that today’s traveller can’t take advantage of the technology being developed as the boffins move ever closer to the holy grail of legal and safe self-driving cars.
The roadsign-reading Ford is a case in point. By the middle of this year, the US auto maker is to start selling a car that can not only read roadsigns, but can adjust its speed accordingly to ensure you’re not driving too fast. While grey nomads aren’t normally known for their speed demon approach to travelling around Australia, the new technology will offer some protection against an occasional lapse of concentration, or an unexpected or unseen change in speed limit.
Drivers will be able to set the new system to let them speed at up to 8km/h beyond the detected limit.
The system really combines two existing technologies. A forward-facing windscreen-mounted video camera scans the environment for roadsigns and alerts the driver to their presence. This is then linked in with speed limiter sensors which are mounted in a car’s wheels to detect how fast it is going. Once software detects the vehicle needs to go slower, it smoothly controls engine torque by electronically adjusting the amount of fuel delivered rather than applying the brakes.
The speed-limiting technology can be overridden by pressing firmly on the accelerator if there is a need to find quick acceleration for safety reasons.
The Intelligent Speed Limiter technology will become available to the public when Ford’s second generation S-Max car is launched in Europe in August, and is set to be extended to other models around the world soon afterwards.