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

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A photo shows separated components of the axial flux motor in the order in which they appear in the finished motor.

The heart of any electric motor consists of a rotor that revolves around a stationary part, called a stator. The stator, traditionally made of iron, tends to be heavy. Stator iron accounts for about two-thirds of the weight of a conventional motor. To lighten the stator, some people proposed making it out of a printed circuit board.

Although the idea of replacing a hunk of iron with a lightweight, ultrathin, easy-to-make, long-lasting PCB was attractive from the outset, it didn’t gain widespread adoption in its earliest applications inside lawn equipment and wind turbines a little over a decade ago. Now, though, the PCB stator is getting a new lease on life. Expect it to save weight and thus energy in just about everything that uses electricity to impart motive force.

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