Ford has announced a new technology that will read speed limit signs and other road restrictions and automatically slow a vehicle.
The carmaker is rolling out the technology in new models of the Ford S-Max, a minivan that it originally produced for the European market and first went on sale in 2006. Ford didn't immediately comment on whether the technology will be used in other makes or models of its vehicles.
The new system, called Intelligent Speed Limiter, enables drivers to set a maximum vehicle speed. The max speed is then automatically adjusted according to information from an in-vehicle traffic sign recognition system that uses a windshield-mounted camera to read road signs. Those restrictions are then displayed on the instrument cluster.
At the same time the road restrictions are being communicated to a driver, an electronic system reduces the vehicle accelerator mechanism -- instead of applying the brakes -- to slow the car. If the vehicle happens to overrun the set speed limit, say on downhill gradients, a warning sound goes off alerting the driver.
Drivers can also temporarily override the system by firmly pressing down on the accelerator pedal.
Cars with onboard navigation can also use map data to support the Intelligent Speed Limiter system in rural areas that may have fewer traffic signs.
The intent of the Intelligent Speed Limiter appears to be helping motorists avoid tickets.
"In some countries the speed limits are getting lower and the fines are getting bigger and bigger," Ford said in its marketing material.
Also available for the new S-MAX is a Pedestrian Detection System that will automatically detect people or oncoming vehicles in a roadway and reduce vehicle speed to reduce the chance of a collision, or help drivers avoid some impacts altogether.
That system initially launched in the Ford Mondeo sedan last year.