The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Ford Makes a Thinking Car for the Average Pocketbook

The 2015 Modeo, a modestly priced sedan, will be able to sense and avoid pedestrians

1 min read
Ford Makes a Thinking Car for the Average Pocketbook
Photo: The Ford Motor Company

Ford is doing what its founder, Henry Ford, lived to do: making a rich man's toy into a working man's tool.

Ford says it will offer a pedestrian-sensing system in its Mondeo sedan, beginning in Europe in the coming model year. It uses a camera on the windshield and a radar sensor near the bumper—a minimalist approach but one that works well, at least when the light and the weather are decent.

That’s a fabulous first step for a car with a starting price of a little over €27,000, or roughly US $35,000. 

Compare that to the cost-be-damned approach behind the Google Car, which has a rotating laser rangefinder that costs twice as much as a Mondeo. Or to the cost-be-darned Mercedes-Benz S Class, which is festooned with multiple radars and cameras and costs 2.6 times as much as a Mondeo.

In a press release, Ford said it took the system out on roads around the world.  “This real-world testing was an important part of the development, because pedestrians in an urban setting can present a wide range of potential situations,” said Scott Lindstrom, who heads up the companies driver-assist research. 

Ford’s collision-avoidance system doesn’t tell the driver what to do—at least not right away. It gives a warning, through a flashing light and a sound. If the driver doesn’t respond, then the car takes over, either avoiding a collision or mitigating the effects of one. All manufacturers are following the same course in order to keep the driver in the loop, as they say. It also keeps the liability squarely on the driver’s shoulders.

Here's Ford's demonstration of the technology

The Conversation (0)

We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

Keep Reading ↓Show less