Ford has filed a patent application for a system capable of detecting brake lights. While this may seem a little odd, we understand there's a specific reason for the interest.
The patent application was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on September 14, 2023, but was filed last May.
The aim of the system, Ford explains, would be to help improve the performance of driver assistance systems and, potentially, future self-driving vehicles.
Those will be equipped with cameras and sensors to scan the road ahead. The role of the software developed by Ford will be to interpret the work of those tools to determine whether a vehicle's brake lights are on. Ford also mentions day and night modes, with different software strategies to detect light and correctly identify which brake lights are on.
According to the company, such a system could help autonomous cars more accurately determine when it's safe to move. It could, for example, prevent a car from moving forward if the light turns green when the vehicles in front of it have not yet started moving.
The detection of the brake light would take precedence over the detection of the traffic light turning green, the signal the car is waiting for to start moving. It could also be useful if the traffic lights don't work. In non-autonomous cars equipped with drive-assist systems, it could intervene in case of driver distraction if it detects the brake lights of the vehicle in front.
Of course, with patent applications like these, we're mostly talking about concepts being put forward, and there's no guarantee that they'll find their way into vehicles. However, the idea here is rather brilliant and it’s easy to see its potential. If it proves effective, it will improve the safety of future self-driving vehicles.