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Ford touts tech to bottle up traffic jams

Caveat: requires perfectly marked, cyclist-free roads

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Ford today promised to help motorists keep moving through heavy traffic, but the caveats it's applying to its prototype mean we won't be jam free for quite some time.

Appropriately dubbed "Traffic Jam Assist", the technology Ford was keen to tout today uses radar and cameras to track other vehicles and road markings while taking control of your own car to keep it on the move and in lane.

It's a great idea. In busy traffic, you sit back and relax while the car keeps going, timing gear changes, acceleration and braking more quickly and more appropriately than you can. All you're needed for a lane changes and turnings.

Roll it on, we say.

And then we read that Traffic Jam Assist can do all this only "in environments where there are no pedestrians, cyclists or animals, and where lanes are clearly marked." Even then, it only has "the potential" to make a difference.

Clearly marked lanes? That's a heck of a lot of British roads, major ones among them, we can rule out then. Chuck in the 'no cyclists' caveat, and that's all the remaining urban roads out too.

In any case, unless World+Dog is all driving Fords, someone in the train will be operating on manual and will screw it all up. In short, this kind of technology is great, but only if everyone has it.

Still, you can't fault Ford for trying. A much more useful technology, which it also pitched today, is a revision of its automatic reverse parallel parking feature, Park Assist, that adds perpendicular parking to its repertoire of manoeuvres.

The driver controls the vehicle's speed while the car steers itself back into the slot, hopefully allowing sufficient room for passengers to open the doors and get out. If not, there's always Ford's Door Edge Protector system, which flips out a rubber pad to stop you damaging the car next to you.

All good stuff, and all of its based on technology Ford is already building into some of its cars. Alas, though, it couldn't say when these extra features might be added too. ®

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