A fully autonomous self-driving car may be only 13 years away from occupying the garage of a typical American family, Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company, has said.
In the meantime, simpler safety technologies found now in higher-priced vehicles, such as drowsy-driver detection and lane-keeping assist, can save lives — especially if they become more widely available.
That will happen next fall, Ford says. The company plans to be the first automaker to offer a plethora of such relatively advanced technologies in a non-luxury mid-size sedan, the 2013 Fusion.
The list includes:
A lane-keeping system that uses a forward-facing camera to detect when the car is drifting out of its lane, warns the driver by vibrating the steering wheel, and steers the car back into its lane if the driver doesn't respond.
A drowsy-driver detection system that also uses a forward-facing camera to sense when the driver is steering erratically and alerts him to stop and rest.
Pull-drift compensation, which detects whether a slope in the road is causing the car to drift off course and gently steers it back to the intended path.
Adaptive cruise control with forward-collision warning, which uses a front radar sensor to measure the distance and time to the vehicle ahead, slows or accelerates the car to maintain a safe following distance, and warns the driver if the car is closing in and a collision is likely.
Blind-spot information with cross-traffic alert, which uses rear-corner radar sensors to detect other vehicles in the car's blind spot.
Active park assist, which also utilizes the rear radar sensors to find a space large enough for parallel parking and automatically steers the car into it.
Each of those technologies is already available in other Ford vehicles, and in ones offered by other automakers, such as Volvo, Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz. But the 2013 Fusion will be the only car in its market segment to offer all of these safety features (aside from blind-spot protection, which the Toyota Camry has).
Ford has not announced the base price of the 2013 Fusion, nor has it said how it will offer and price the driver assist technologies (in packages or individually). But the car is scheduled to arrive at dealerships sometime in the fall.