Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ford's cleverest idea

videoEvery car should have one. A feature of my first Institute of Advanced Motorist driving test was preliminary drives with an IAM member. He only had to ask, "What was the last traffic sign you passed?" a couple of times to demonstrate that my observation of them was imperfect. Well, it was worse. I used to pass without seeing them. Went to the launch of the new Focus last week. It's a fine car. Too much road noise perhaps, but the cleverest thing is its traffic sign recognition system. It has a camera in the windscreen that sees them and reproduces them on the facia. What a boon on one of those roads where the speed limit changes so often that even the most observantly virtuous driver doesn't remember what the prevailing limit is. A little 30 or 50 comes up on the instrument panel. It fades after a time but it will be a blessing to any drivers with a few penalty points on their licence. I'm OK at the moment; three crept on to my previously clean licence last year, but with so many cameras about you could get a driving ban in an afternoon. I'll be amazed if more of these don't appear elsewhere. The camera installation takes up quite a lot of windscreen but after a few minutes' driving you scarecely notice. The Driver Assistance Pack is a £750 option, and includes a lane keeping aid and blind spot monitoring that reasonably alert drivers shouldn't need but for peace of mind the Traffic Sign Recognition kit could be almost priceless.

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