Motoring News

Ford sees the lights: Emergency trial joins traffic flow

PRETORIA, South Africa – In an emergency anything that causes first responders to slow down affects how quickly they can arrive at the scene – and such delays can prove fatal.

Ford has tested connected trafficlights tech that could automatically go green to provide a clearer route for ambulances, fire tenders, and police vehicles. They could also reduce the risk of a secondary accident caused by first responders driving through red lights.


Martin Sommer, a research engineer with Automated Driving Europe, told The Corner: “Neither a fire tender en route to a blaze or an ambulance blue-lighting through traffic should be trapped by a red light.”

Congestion, too, could be eased with traffic lights sending red-green timing information to approaching vehicles.

The trial, Ford told The Corner, was part of a broader project to test automated and connected vehicles and networked highway infrastructure and to demonstrate Ford’s commitment to a better driving experience.

HERE’S how it works…

Ford used a road with eight consecutive traffic lights and two stretches with three consecutive traffic lights just outside the city, each set up by the project’s partners. A Ford Kuga Plug-In Hybrid equipped with units to communicate with the infrastructure and rapid control proto-typing hardware (to run prototype software in the vehicle), acted as ambulance and passenger vehicle for various test sutuations.

For a dummy emergency the test vehicle signalled the traffic lights to turn green – then return to standard operation as the vehicle cleared the junction,

To test daily driving situations the test vehicle received timing information for the traffic lights turning from red to green and green to red. The Ford’s cruise control adapted the vehicle’s speed to ensure the lights returned to standard operation.


A greater proportion of traffic encountered a green light the traffic light was red, the vehicle’s speed was reduced well ahead of the junction to arrive at the light the moment it turned green, for example from 50 to 30 km/h.

Vehicles encountering a red light could still help to minimise harsh braking and the time spent at a standstill. The vehicle received the traffic light information well ahead of the junction and slowed earlier – helping to reduce congestion.

The communication between vehicles and traffic lights was enabled by cellular vehicle-to-everything technology – a unified platform to connect to vehicles, roadside infrastructure, other vehicles, and other road-users.


Michael Reinartz from Vodafone Germany explained: “Sharing data simultaneously between cars, emergency vehicles, and traffic lights using cellphone technology makes road traffic safer and more efficient.

“Intelligent control of traffic lights could save lives when every second counts, reduces waiting times, and reduces CO2 emissions.”

Ford engineers tested the system as part of a Corridor for New Mobility project paid for by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport and supported University Aachen, Vodafone, Straßen, the road authority for North Rhine Westphalia, and the City of Aachen.

The project ran from January 2020 to March 2022.

AND A FOOTNOTE: Experts believe road-accident survivals could be 40% greater if treatment began even four minutes sooner. In 2017 ambulances in London were involved in six accidents a day – 2265 in that year. In 2016 the figure was 2297.

Data in Germany showed 39% of ambulance accidents at road junctions happened when a traffic light was red for the ambulance.

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