Bluetooth app so you don’t get hit by a Ford • The Register

Future Ford vehicles could be equipped with technology that lets the driver know if a pedestrian is dangerously close – even if they can’t be seen.

Ford claims the development is based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals, which have become ubiquitous in modern technology thanks to their low power consumption and range. In this case, Ford is developing a mobile app that broadcasts the location of a pedestrian or cyclist and relays it to Ford vehicles equipped with SYNC, the company’s onboard operating system.

What’s less clear is how much data Ford’s smartphone app would need, and what it would do with said data. In addition, there is the question of BLE accuracy, which according to a is not particularly good at longer distances Paper 2019 from the Institute of Physics (IOP).

In the paper, the researchers noted that different BLE beacon positioning systems showed similar test results, with average location accuracy falling to 0.79 meters and 2.28 meters. At 10 meters, the location accuracy is so bad that the BLE beacon can only be located up to 7.81 meters – that’s not a long braking distance.

According to British insurance company RAC, a vehicle traveling 20 MPH needs 14 meters to stop, meaning Ford’s plan to rely on BLE to locate unnoticed pedestrians may not be the best technological choice.

Ford says SYNC-enabled vehicles already come with the hardware needed to adopt the technology, so no upgrades are needed. Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s executive director for research and advanced engineering, said the new BLE technology will work with Ford’s existing Co-Pilot360 driver assistance technology, which detects pedestrians, cyclists and other hazards and can brake the vehicle if necessary.

“We’re now investigating ways to extend vehicle detection capabilities to areas the driver can’t see, to help people drive even more confidently on roads that are increasingly being shared by others with their two feet or two wheels.”

Ford has involved a number of partners in the project, including Ohio State University and T-Mobile, who are working with Ford to develop a 5G-based system that will work similarly to the BLE hidden pedestrian alert system.

In addition to protecting pedestrians on busy roads, Ford says the technology could be expanded to detect roadworks and workers, as well as other security applications where unseen people or small vehicles could pose a threat.

But what about the landscape?

For those who think less about pedestrian safety and more about the sanctity of an unadulterated view when driving in a self-driving car, Toyota has filed a Black Mirror-like patent for technology that does the exact opposite of what Ford does.

In a somewhat bizarre way 2019 submission lately highlighted on Twitter by patent attorney Jeff Steck, Toyota claimed it was developing the concept to “improve[e] the comfort of a driver driving himself.”

Toyota’s concept envisages “masking image” technology that can detect potential hazards and “in a case where the driver is not observing the situation” hides threats that the car’s self-driving computer needs to know about, but the driver does not know Driver does not know “which enables the driver to recognize circumstances other than potential dangers. The driver is namely able to observe the landscape.”

Since this is a patent application, there is no way of knowing if Toyota’s concept is anything more than that. Ford, on the other hand, will demonstrate both the BLE and 5G versions of its new technology at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America World Convention this week in Los Angeles. ® Bluetooth app so you don’t get hit by a Ford • The Register

Laura Coffey

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