Major car makers are now investing a lot of time and resources into autonomous or “self-driving” vehicles, even Google is toying with the idea and while commercial launches might be far off, that certainly won’t hinder research. Ford today unveiled its Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicle which has been developed in collaboration with the University of Michigan and State Farm. This research automobile will test and advance Ford’s Blueprint for Mobility, which basically sees a future of advanced driving technologies and autonomous functionality after 2025.
Ford has over a decade of research on automated driving, and the Fusion Hybrid is a result of that ongoing project. It will test current and future sensing systems as well as driver assist technologies. The ultimate goal here is to advance development of new technologies with its partners so that they can be introduced in Ford’s next generation of motor cars. Raj Nair, group vice president of Ford global product development says that with this project the company aims to “tests the limits of full automation and determine the appropriate levels for near and mid-term deployment.”
Many of the technologies available in Ford cars today, such as blind spot information system, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support and active park assist are the building blocks for fully automated driving. The Fusion Hybrid research vehicle uses these same technologies, which are aided by four LiDAR infrared sensors that scan the road at 2.5 million times per second. The sensors are capable of bouncing light off anything within 200 feet so that a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment can be created, they are so sensitive that they can easily differentiate between a small animal and a paperbag at nearly a football field away. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford says that the automated vehicle represents the company’s vision for the future of mobility, and that they see a future of “connected cars that communicate with each other and the world around them to make driving safer, ease traffic congestion and sustain the environment.“