Ford has announced a new technology that will read speed limit signs and other road restrictions and automatically slow a vehicle.
The carmaker is rolling out the technology in new models of the Ford S-Max, a minivan that it originally produced for the European market and first went on sale in 2006.
The new system, called Intelligent Speed Limiter, enables drivers to set a maximum vehicle speed. The max speed is then automatically adjusted according to information from an in-vehicle traffic sign recognition system that uses a windshield-mounted camera to read road signs. Those restrictions are then displayed on the instrument cluster.
At the same time the road restrictions are being communicated to a driver, an electronic system reduces the vehicle accelerator mechanism -- instead of applying the brakes -- to slow the car. If the vehicle happens to overrun the set speed limit, say on downhill gradients, a warning sound goes off alerting the driver.
Drivers can also temporarily override the system by firmly pressing down on the accelerator pedal.
Cars with onboard navigation can also use map data to support the Intelligent Speed Limiter system in rural areas that may have fewer traffic signs.
"The S-MAX Intelligent Speed Limiter technology will launch only in Europe for now, but it could eventually migrate to the U.S. in the future," Ford wrote in a statement to Computerworld. "Ford is always researching and looking for ways to make driving easier and safer for customers, and we found that our customers in Europe wanted technology that could scan traffic signs and speed limits. Now that we have the feature in our technology portfolio, we will monitor the U.S. desire and implement the technology in other regions accordingly."
Ford already currently has semi-autonomous technologies on the road, including Lane Keeping, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Pre-Collision Warning, Blind Spot Information System and Active Park Assist.
The intent of the Intelligent Speed Limiter appears to be helping motorists avoid tickets.
Across Europe there are 35,000 safety cameras that detect cars exceeding the speed limit and automatically send out speeding tickets to offenders, according to Ford. "In some countries the speed limits are getting lower and the fines are getting bigger and bigger," Ford said in its marketing material.
Also available for the new S-MAX is a Pedestrian Detection System that will automatically detect people or oncoming vehicles in a roadway and reduce vehicle speed to reduce the chance of a collision, or help drivers avoid some impacts altogether.
That system initially launched in the Ford Mondeo sedan last year.