Imagine a World with Less Traffic Jams -- Ford Is

Have you ever been stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, inching along for what seems like hours, only to suddenly burst into free-moving traffic with no possible reason in sight for the backup?

That's what called a "Phantom Traffic Jam". It can happen from something as minuscule as one driver needing to brake hard, and then taking a few seconds longer to get back up to speed. Human reaction time varies, and typically our ability to adjust speed down and back up is pretty limited.

That "wave" goes back through all of the vehicles behind the first car, and a traffic jam can happen within minutes.

So, Ford set out to see what would happen if you take away a little bit of that human involvement. Ford researchers paired with Vanderbilt University to put dozens of cars equipped with Adaptive Cruise control in a similar situation, in the largest demonstration of its kind.


How Adaptive Cruise Control Works

Adaptive Cruise Control works in a similar way to conventional CC in that it keeps your car running at a consistent speed, even up and down hills and around corners, and you shouldn't use it in wet or slick conditions.

ACC uses sensors located at the front of the vehicle to detect vehicle proximity and adjusts as necessary to keep you at a set, safe distance behind them. Driving distance won't override maximum speed, though, so if your set speed is 65 mph and the car in front of you decides to sprint off into the sunset, your Ford won't try to play catch-up.


How Enough ACC-Equipped Cars Could Cut Down on Traffic Jams

By maintaining a consistent distance from the vehicle in front of it, a car equipped with Adaptive Cruise Control won't be susceptible to that lack of response time that human drivers suffer from. Your pace car slows down, you slow down; it speeds up, you speed up. There is little, to what feels like no, lag in adjusting speed, because the system is able to process and respond faster than we can.

Watch the video to see what that looks like.


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