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Ford Hopes People Will Download an App to Avoid Being Hit by Its Cars

The company is researching a new bluetooth phone application that would warn drivers of even out-of-sight cyclists and pedestrians in a vehicle's way.

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Imagine: The only thing standing between you and this truck’s front grill could be a phone app.
Imagine: The only thing standing between you and this truck’s front grill could be a phone app.
Photo: jluke (Shutterstock)

The year is 2022. Cars have Bluetooth. Phones have Bluetooth. So, logically(?), Ford is asking: Can Bluetooth protect pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable, non-car people from being struck by its vehicles?

The automaker is developing a phone app that would alert drivers to the presence of nearby bikers, walkers, or scooter-ers using location alerts sent via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology. Or at least, drivers would be alerted to the presence of those using the app.


People who’ve downloaded the Ford-specific widget, and have it actively running on their phones would show up as “beacons” to drivers with Ford’s Sync infotainment system. If those app users are in a vehicles’ path and there’s crash potential, drivers would then be alerted with dashboard screen graphics or sounds.

Ford’s scheduled to demo its app for the first time at the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s World Congress this week. The application would be used to support the company’s existing advanced driver assistance system, which can already intervene when a driver fails to react to obstacles in time.


“Newer Ford vehicles already with Ford Co-Pilot360 Technology can detect and help warn drivers of pedestrians, bicyclists, scooter riders and others – and even apply brakes if drivers do not respond in time,” said Jim Buczkowski, a Ford executive, in a company press release. “We are now exploring ways to expand vehicle sensing capability, for areas drivers cannot see, to help people drive even more confidently on roads increasingly shared by others using their two feet or two wheels.”

Car makers are increasingly investing in self-driving, autonomous, or driver-assisted technologies. But cars equipped with these features still crash, and still kill people.

Ford’s press release cites the growing number of traffic, cyclist, and pedestrian fatalities as the impetus for the app’s development. Note: One big contributing factor to the rising number of deaths is the popularity of SUVs and large trucks, which Ford sells more of in the U.S. than any other automaker.

However, as a report from Engadget first pointed out, it’s hard to imagine that something like Ford’s app will be able to solve the problem of increasing pedestrian mortality. How many people will be willing to download yet another location-tracking app, for a purpose that could and should be better addressed by policy and infrastructure changes?