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Ford has been testing a traffic light system that allows emergency vehicles to manipulate the signals for smooth travel in city conditions. Picture: SUPPLIED
Ford has been testing a traffic light system that allows emergency vehicles to manipulate the signals for smooth travel in city conditions. Picture: SUPPLIED

Ford has trialled connected traffic light tech that could automatically go green to offer clearer routes for ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles. They could also help reduce the risk of an accident caused by first responders driving through red lights. 

To test the technology, Ford used a road with eight consecutive traffic lights and two stretches with three consecutive traffic lights. A Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid test vehicle equipped with C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything) technology, which is a unified platform that connects vehicles to roadside infrastructure, other vehicles and other road users, acted as an ambulance and passenger vehicle for the different test scenarios.

The test vehicle signalled to the traffic lights to turn the light green. Once the vehicle passed through the junction, the traffic lights returned to standard operation.

For testing daily driving situations, the test vehicle received the timing information for when the traffic lights turned from red to green and green to red. Ford’s adaptive cruise control technology then adapted the vehicle’s speed to ensure a higher proportion of traffic encountered a green light. 

When the traffic light was red, the vehicle’s speed was reduced well ahead of the junction to time the vehicle’s approach to arrive at the light the moment it turned green, for example from 50km/h to 30km/h.

For vehicles encountering a red light, the technology could still help to minimise harsh braking and the time spent at a standstill. The vehicle received the traffic light information well ahead of the junction and slowed down earlier, helping to reduce congestion.

“Whether it’s a fire engine attending a blaze or an ambulance that is en route to an accident, the last thing anyone wants is for these drivers to be caught up among other vehicles waiting for the lights to change,” said Martin Sommer, a research engineer for Automated Driving Europe at Ford of Europe.

Congestion could also be reduced with traffic lights sending the red-green timing information to approaching vehicles.

The trial was part of a broader project that involved testing automated and connected vehicles and networked infrastructure in highway, urban and rural areas.

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