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Ford and Hermes partner on autonomous delivery vehicles

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Ford has announced a new Self-Driving Vehicle Research Programme designed to help businesses in Europe understand how autonomous vehicles can benefit their operations.

Hermes is the first business to partner with Ford on the programme. Using a customised Ford commercial vehicle, the research aims to better understand how other road users would interact with an apparently driverless delivery van.

The specially adapted Ford Transit features sensors that mimic the look of an actual self-driving vehicle plus a “Human Car Seat” in control of the vehicle – this enables an experienced, hidden driver to drive while giving the impression to others around that there is no one at the wheel.

“As we plan to bring autonomous vehicles to the roads, it is important that we focus not only on enabling the technology, but on enabling our customers’ businesses,” said Richard Balch, director, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe. “Clearly, there is no better way to identify how they may need to adapt than to experience those processes in real life.”

Ford has for six years been Europe’s market leader in commercial vehicles. 1 By harnessing this experience with expertise from delivery firms, the company intends to identify new opportunities and models for autonomous vehicle operations – in particular understanding how existing processes and human interactions can work alongside automated vehicles. Commercial vehicles’ planned operations and many human interactions are an ideal test case.

A commercial vehicle driver’s responsibilities sometimes extend beyond simply driving from one destination to another. In a delivery or logistics operation, for example, the driver may also be tasked with sorting and loading goods, manually handing packages over to recipients – or reloading them onto the van if delivery is not possible.

However, in this research, the driver will play an entirely passive role, simply driving the vehicle. Pedestrian couriers who support the delivery van are equipped with a smartphone app that lets them hail the vehicle and remotely unlock the load door after it is safely parked at the roadside. Once inside, voice prompts and digital screens direct the courier  to their locker, containing the parcels to be delivered.

Understanding and designing how humans will interact with the vehicle will ensure that business processes are able to continue safely without a driver present.

The two-week research project with Hermes builds on the success of Ford’s “last mile delivery” trials in London, in which a team of pedestrian couriers collects parcels from a delivery van and fulfils the last leg of the delivery by foot resulting in fast, sustainable and efficient deliveries in cities.

The research vehicles will enable Hermes and other businesses to begin designing how their teams could work alongside driverless vehicles. For Hermes, this user design research has included developing an app that enables the pedestrian couriers to access the van to collect parcels, once again, this is a role that the human driver would normally fulfil.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Ford on this proof of concept trial, which is all about understanding the potential for autonomous vehicles and if they have a role in delivery in the longer-term future,” said Lynsey Aston, head of product, Innovation and Onboarding. “We’re constantly innovating to incubate and then explore concepts like this, and we look forward to the initial findings, which will no doubt be useful on an industry-wide level.”

Ford researchers are already investigating how self-driving vehicles will integrate seamlessly into our daily lives, including developing a light-based visual language to convey to other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists what autonomous vehicles intend to do next.

Ford has been testing self-driving technology in major cities across the U.S. and plans to invest around $7 billion in autonomous vehicles during 10 years through to 2025 – $5 billion of that from 2021 forward – as part of its Ford Mobility initiatives.

In collaboration with Ford’s self-driving technology partner, Argo AI, autonomous test vehicles operate daily in six U.S. cities. Last year, Argo AI’s comprehensive self-driving system enabled address-to-address autonomous deliveries of fresh produce and school supplies through a charitable goods pilot in Miami, Florida, in the United States.

Know your limits: A history of the UK’s speed restrictions

110 110 Stuart O'Brien

For the year ending June 2018, 1,770 people had died on British roads, while 25,000 more were seriously injured. Many of these deaths and injuries have been linked to breaking speed limits or driving beyond the means of the weather conditions.

Speed limits, despite often frustrating, are there for a reason, whether it is to control the flow of the traffic, or to ensure the utmost safety. 

Initially introduced in 1861, the UK is awash with speed cameras, approximately 3,000, some of which are designed to implement fines that are 125 to 175 per cent of your weekly wage.

With the rise of black box insurance plans bringing a closer focus on what speeds you can travel, Ford Transit Custom dealers Lookers take a look at what speeds you’re legally allowed to travel and where, as well as speed restrictions on certain commercial vehicles…

Motorways

With 160 deaths in the last 10 years, the M6 is said to be the deadliest motorway in the UK. The M49, which covers the Bristol and Gloucestershire area, on the other hand, was found to be the safest.

70mph is the general speed limit on a motorway in the UK. However, this does differ and drop to 60mph if you are towing a caravan or trailer, driving a bus/coach over 12 metres long, or driving a heavy goods vehicle of over 7.5 tonnes. 

Single and duel carriageways

On A roads, 43 per cent of all accidents occur, therefore it’s perhaps important to understand exactly what speed each vehicle can travel. Here, depending on your vehicle, the speed limit differs. For a normal-size car, motorbike or car-derived van, the cap is at 60mph on a single carriageway and 70mph on a dual carriageway. However, if your vehicle has a trailer attached, you must lower your speed by 10mph. 

If your motorhome or motorcaravan weighs less than 3.05 tonnes then you are able to go at the same speed as a trailer-less car, but if they are over 3.05 tonnes in weight, then the 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a duel carriageway limits apply. These lower limits also apply for buses and coaches that are over 12 metres in length, and heavy goods vehicles. It is important to be aware that if a heavy goods vehicle weighs over 7.5 tonnes, the speed limits drop a further 10mph if you are in Scotland: 40mph on a single carriageway and 50mph on a dual carriageway.

Built-up areas

In areas with street lights, you mustn’t go above 30mph, and in many cases nowadays 20mph where stated. The 30mph limit was reintroduced over 80 years ago, but there are calls to lower it everywhere to try to protect us further. When it was introduced in 1934, although there was one-tenth the number of cars on the roads as there is today, the death tolls were four-fold. 

Temporary speed limits

When temporary speed limits are in place, there will be notices, either overhead or along the side of the road, to notify you of the amended limit. These are put in place to help the traffic flow continue, as well as ensure vehicle safety for you, other road users and indeed those working on the road. You must adhere to these signs!

Minimum speed limits

Although a particularly rare sight to come across, minimum speed limits do exist. Usually found inside tunnels, in which driving slowly could exist as a hazard, these limits are displayed on a round, blue sign.

Speed limiters

Vehicles carrying more than eight passengers and those which weigh more than 3.5 tonnes are often fitted with speed limiters. They work by the fuel supply being restricted to the engine once the vehicle reaches its maximum speed. This ensures that the mobile isn’t able to reach — or break —a speed limit. 

Mopeds are restricted to a maximum of 30mph, perhaps less. Meanwhile, buses, coaches and minibuses speed limiters are set at 62mph, HGVs – depending on class – are set to 56mph or 53mph. You can purchase speed limit stickers for your vehicle so that cars behind you are aware of your top speed. 

Although you may drive on a daily basis, as we have previously mentioned, temporary speed limits can be introduced, therefore keeping brushed up on the various speed limits is crucial, to avoid unnecessary penalties! 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Ford using ‘big data’ in London to predict traffic incidents

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Ford claims it has come up with a means by which so-called ‘big data’ could potentially help cities identify locations most likely to be the scene of future traffic incidents.

Its Smart Mobility division has spent the last year recording 1 million kilometres of vehicle and driver behaviour in and around London.

The company tracked vehicle journeys in the city and logged detailed driving data from driving events such as braking, the severity of that braking, and where hazard warning lights were applied.

This helped Ford to identify what it calls “near-misses”, which were then cross-referenced against existing accident reports, using an algorithm to determine the likelihood of where future incidents might occur.

“We believe our insights have the potential to benefit millions of people. Even very small changes could make a big difference – maybe cutting back a tree that has obscured a road sign – whether in terms of traffic flow, road safety or efficiency,” said Jon Scott, Project Lead at City Data Solutions, Ford Smart Mobility.

This concept was identified in the Ford City Data Report, which took its findings from more than 15,000 days of vehicle use, from 160 connected vans in the city.

Ford’s fleet of vans covered more than 1 million kilometres, the equivalent of 20 times around the earth, and delivered 500 million data points – each vehicle in the study was equipped with a simple plug-in device that recorded the journey data and then sent it to the cloud for analysis.

Data scientists from Ford’s Global Data Insight and Analytics team were then able to analyse the information through an interactive dashboard. Ford says the technology could be applied in any road environment, not just in cities.

The report also investigated other opportunities, such as how scheduling delivery van journeys for earlier in the day, before peak times, could benefit all road users, and how using journey data could help to identify the best locations for electric vehicle charging points.

“The Ford City Data Report is a showcase of what we at Ford can do with connected vehicle data, smart infrastructure, and our analytical capabilities. We are calling on cities to work with us to collectively solve problems that they can become even better places to live and work in,” said Sarah-Jayne Williams, director, Ford Smart Mobility, Ford of Europe.

For the full report, visit citydatareport.fordmedia.eu.