DEARBORN, Mich., Dec. 30, 2011 – With many of us driving long distances to visit friends and family during the holiday season, drowsiness can easily creep up when behind the wheel. That’s why the all-new Ford Fusion will offer a Lane Keeping System (LKS) to help drivers stay between the lines.
The new Ford Fusion, which will debut at the North American International Auto Show in January, is the first mainstream midsize sedan in North America to offer this technology. Ford will roll out the Lane Keeping System to a wide range of its vehicles over the next several years. In addition to the new Fusion, the Ford Explorer also will offer the feature in 2012.
The Lane Keeping System uses a digital camera mounted on the windshield ahead of the rearview mirror, allowing the Fusion to watch the road ahead to detect an unintentional lane departure. The Ford Lane Keeping System has three levels of assistance available to the driver depending on what is happening: Lane Keeping Alert, Lane Keeping Aid and Driver Alert.
“Fusion’s Lane Keeping System combines a digital imaging sensor with our own state-of-the-art control software to process images and determine what level of warning or assistance to provide to the driver,” said Michael Kane, Ford development engineer. “We’ve put a lot of effort into ensuring the accuracy of the lane detection and the smoothness of the assist.”
The driver must turn on the Lane Keeping System. Once the vehicle speed is above 40 mph and lane markers are clearly visible on the road, an icon that looks like a car between two lanes lights up green in the instrument cluster to indicate the system has been enabled. Ford’s Lane Keeping System takes advantage of the electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) used in the new Fusion to provide a vibrating alert to the driver and then gently steer the car back into the lane if the driver doesn’t respond.
When the system detects the car is approaching the edge of the lane without a turn signal activated, the lane marker in the icon turns yellow and the steering wheel vibrates to simulate driving over rumble strips. If the driver doesn’t respond and continues to drift, the lane icon turns red and EPAS will nudge the steering and the vehicle back toward the center of the lane. If the car continues to drift, the vibration is added again along with the nudge. The driver can overcome assistance and vibration at any time by turning the steering wheel, accelerating or braking.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes occur every year as a result of drowsy drivers, leading to 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
“Ford’s Lane Keeping System software monitors the car’s position in real time,” said Kane. “But it also keeps track of behavior over a longer period while driving. If a driver is tired, this can often be detected by the car constantly drifting back and forth across the road.”
Drivers can monitor whether the system is detecting behavior consistent with drowsy driving with an alert gauge in the instrument cluster that features a steaming cup of coffee. As the indicator gets closer to the coffee cup, the driver should consider taking a break to rest.
If the driver doesn’t take a break and the system detects a driving pattern consistent with being tired, an audible chime and a visual alert will suggest the driver stop and rest. If the same conditions persist and the driver doesn’t stop, a second, more assertive warning will be issued. As soon as the driver stops and shuts off the engine or opens the door, the monitor resets its information.
Whether it’s a gust of wind, a momentary distraction or heavy eyelids that cause the vehicle to wander, the Lane Keeping System in the 2013 Ford Fusion effectively provides drivers with an extra set of eyes on the road and hands on the wheel to help them arrive at their destination safe and sound.