Ford adds pre-collision assistance to the shopping cart

Humor can be an effective marketing tool. Ford Motor Company’s “Interventions” YouTube series is about using advanced automotive technology to solve simple everyday problems, an almost Rube Goldbergian sort of impractical practicality. So far, the automaker has developed a noise bark canceling doghouse and a “smart” pickup truck bed with a conveyor belt to aid in loading and unloading. Ford’s latest effort is called the “Self-Braking Trolley.” It applies the Pre-Collision Assist driving aid available in most Ford cars to the problem of your vehicle getting dinged by a shopping cart (in European parlance, the cart is often called a trolley).

Pre-Collision Assist in a passenger vehicle uses radar, a forward-facing camera, and some sophisticated software to identify vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians, and other obstacles in the road, and then warns the driver that a collision is imminent. If the driver doesn’t respond, PCA will then automatically apply the brakes to avoid a wreck.

Ford shopping cart

When Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping cart (U.S. Patent # 2,196,914) in 1937, his idea was to make things easier for mothers trying to wrangle small children and hold their groceries at the same time. His invention’s intention wasn’t just to make things more convenient for harried moms. It allowed shoppers to buy more groceries than could be carried in a hand basket. However, Goldman apparently didn’t consider the consequences of one of those children running a cart into a stacked display, or of an unattended cart rolling into a parked car and damaging it.

Ford has now solved that problem by putting collision avoidance on a shopping cart. The video demonstrates its utility by showing kids racing carts around grocery stores, smacking into this and that. When the PCA system is activated, though, the carts smoothly slow to a stop before crashing into stacked fruit, other shoppers, or a car in the lot (a Mustang, natch).

While the Self-Braking Trolley system is much too expensive to actually be implemented by grocery stores, Ford seems to be getting more attention from this stunt than its half-billion dollar investment in EV startup Rivian yesterday. Somewhere, Sylvan Goldman is smiling.

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