The Self-Braking Trolley is designed to stop automatically before hitting a person, shelf or any other obstacle.
The feature could prevent many uncomfortable rogue trolley scenarios, but Ford designed it with children in mind.
The US company noted that kids are often drawn to riding and racing shopping trolleys, which they can neither see over the top of nor properly control.
With the Self-Braking Trolley, a sensor detects any objects or people ahead and brings the device to a halt.
The prototype is the latest in Ford's Interventions series, which applies the company's automotive technology to solve non-vehicular problems while promoting some of the cars' lesser-known features.
The previous inventions in the series have been the Lane-Keeping Bed that keeps restless sleepers on their side of the mattress and the Noise-Cancelling Kennel to stop dogs getting stressed out during fireworks.
The Self-Braking Trolley is based on the collision-avoidance system Ford offers in its cars. Called Pre-Collision Assist, it detects pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles in the car's path, and automatically brakes if the driver doesn't respond to warnings.
A more complex system than required for the trolley, it uses a forward-facing camera combined with radar for detection.
"We thought that showing how similar thinking could be applied to a shopping trolley would be a great way to highlight what can be a really useful technology for drivers," said Ford marketing director Anthony Ireson.
The invention is especially apt because in the eyes of children, shopping trolleys pass for cars.
"Children love to copy adults and experiment with feeling more in control," said parenting expert Tanith Carey. "When they push a trolley, to their minds, it's like they are behind the wheels of a car – with long, wide supermarket aisles as their racetrack."
Images courtesy of Ford.