Auto maker Ford has been trialling connected traffic lights equipped with C-V2X technology enabling them to automatically switch to green to offer clearer routes for ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles. Ford notes the system also has the potential to reduce congestion thanks to traffic lights sending their red-green timing information to approaching vehicles.
“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,” explained Martin Sommer, research engineer, Automated Driving Europe, Ford of Europe.
To test the technology, Ford utilized a road with eight consecutive traffic lights in Aachen, Germany, and two stretches with three consecutive traffic lights just outside the city. A Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid test vehicle, equipped with onboard units (for communicating with the infrastructure) and rapid control prototyping hardware (for running the prototype software in the vehicle), acted as an ambulance and passenger vehicle for the different test scenarios.
For testing an emergency response situation, the test vehicle signaled 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 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 help ensure a higher proportion of traffic encountered a green light.
If 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 30mph to 20mph.
“Exchanging data between cars, emergency vehicles and traffic lights in real time using the latest mobile phone technology makes road traffic safer and more efficient,” added Michael Reinartz, director, Consumer Services and Innovation, Vodafone Germany. “Intelligent traffic light control helps save lives when every second counts and also reduces unnecessary waiting times and cuts CO2 emissions.”
Ford engineers tested the system as part of the Corridor for New Mobility Aachen-Düsseldorf (ACCorD) project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport and supported by RWTH University Aachen, Vodafone, Straßen.NRW (the road authority for North Rhine Westphalia) and the City of Aachen, over a three-month period at the start of 2022.