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Ford, Mobileye Push New Car-Safety Technology

Ford and Mobileye are aggressively pushing driver safety, with Ford delivering crash-warning safety features into its midpriced car class for the first time, and Mobileye offering more features at the $900 price point for aftermarket retailers.

Aftermarket suppliers and car companies alike are investing in advanced safety electronics, a category that is expected to grow by 27 percent on a compound annual basis through 2013 in the OEM market, according to iSuppli.

Alpine said it will show advanced safety products at International CES in January for delivery in 2010.

On the OEM side, Ford is putting crash-warning and adaptive cruise-control systems, previously found on luxury cars, into its midlevel Ford Taurus that began shipping in July, and it may extend such safety features to lower-priced cars.

Ford global electrical and electronics systems director Jim Buzcowski said, “We want to make driver-assist safety features available across all vehicle lines.”

In the aftermarket, Mobileye just improved the features on its lowest-priced crash-warning/lane-departure warning system that sells through car stereo retailers. The new C2-170 is shipping now for $899.

Skip Kinford, CEO of Mobileye, said he sees 2011 and 2012 as pivotal years for driver-safety devices as they will become “pretty much standard on a lot of cars,” starting with the 2011 model year. He said he has contracts signed with car companies as proof, as Mobileye also sells OEM safety devices to General Motors, BMW, Volvo and Peugeot.

Ford said it is attempting to “democratize” driver-safety technology, beginning with the 2010 Ford Taurus that shipped late in July. One Taurus safety-option package, at $1,200, includes adaptive cruise control, which uses 76GHz radar to track the car in front of the driver. It automatically slows down the car to adjust to traffic flow and resumes to the preset speed when traffic picks up.

This same package also gives you a “collision warning” if a driver is closing in on the car in front of him too quickly.

As for Mobileye, its new C2-170 offers several functions. It issues a warning if the driver is drifting outside his lane unintentionally (if he don’t have his signal light).

It also reads out the distance between the driver’s car and the car in front and warns if the driver is following too closely.

A third function is forward-collision warning. “The processing power of our chip calculates the closing rate of your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. If it determines there’s going to be an imminent contact, it gives you a loud beeping” and shows an icon on the display, said Kinford.