Soon there will be a day when you’ll be able to jump in your car, turn it on and let it do driving for you. Ford’s new Traffic Jam Assist technology is a step in that direction – it uses radar and camera technology to help a vehicle keep pace with other vehicles in traffic and provide automated steering control to stay in the current lane, reducing driver stress and potentially improving vehicle flow.

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“Drivers spend more than 30 percent of their time in heavy traffic,” said Joseph Urhahne, engineer with Ford Research and Innovation. “Traffic Jam Assist could help make traveling through congestion a more relaxing experience and, by keeping pace with the flow of traffic, potentially help relieve road congestion.”

The new system will not only allow you more freedom to focus on happier thoughts than the hundreds of cars in front of you, but will also help you get to your destination faster. Individual simulation 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. Less time on the road will also save millions of gallons of fuel each year.

Traffic Jam Assist has the potential to follow the flow of traffic while maintaining lane position in environments where there are no pedestrians, cyclists or animals, and where lanes are clearly marked. Ford is also further developing its active park assist technology, a feature that allows drivers to parallel park without touching the wheel. In the future this system will also have a feature that will park your car perpendicularly.

It looks like hands-free driving could only be a few years away. Volvo recently tested a caravan of fully automated cars in Spain that drove for 124 miles without any input from the driver, Google has developed a self-driving car, and General Motors is also reportedly looking into the technology.

+ Ford