Unfortunately, it won't be ready for the Olympics, but Ford reckons it can offer a car that automatically drives itself in traffic jams by 2017 – and the company says that will dramatically cut delays.
Ford says that studies have found that where 25 percent of vehicles on a stretch of road are equipped to automatically follow the traffic ahead, journey times can be reduced by 37.5 percent and delays reduced by 20 percent. Apparently, we get so bored and frustrated that we lose concentration and miss opportunities to keep up with the car in front.
The interesting thing about Traffic Jam Assist is that most if the components needed for the system are already available on Ford models. Park Assist operates the steering when reverse parking, Adaptive Cruise Control modulates the speed to follow the car in front and City Stop automatically applies the brakes if it spots an obstacle immediately ahead. Combine with Lane Keeping Aid which knows where the lane begins and ends, the new Traffic jam Assist basically integrates all these systems into one that can actually drive the car at low speeds.
There are a couple of limitations: It will only work on roads with clear lane markings (so motorways and major roads are fine) and it needs an automatic transmission. It might be clever, but it cannot operate a manual clutch.
Other manufacturers are working on similar systems – we recently covered the Audi equivalent here.