It’s easier to say that one day we’ll all be able to ride in the back seat as our cars drive themselves because it’s a much more daunting task to actually make this happen. Major tech companies and auto manufacturers are working on self-driving car technologies and there’s still a lot to be done to ensure that autonomous driving technology is as capable of handling the car in all situations as a human driver, and that includes driving in the dark, which is what Ford is currently testing.
Ford has one of the most ambitious self-driving car programs among conventional car manufacturers. It has even built an entire fake city to test urban conditions freely with its autonomous cars on the road.
The company has also tested its cars on snow-covered roads and even trained the systems to drive like a highly trained driver would under bad road conditions. Ford has carried out a series of tests in Arizona and it can now say that its autonomous research car is able to drive better than humans in complete darkness.
Testing the car in complete darkness took the camera out of the equation since it can’t operate properly when visibility is low as opposed to radars and lidars which work just fine. To ensure that the car drives itself better than a human would in complete darkness the other sensors on the car need to be very capable so as to fill the gap left behind by the camera.
The test showed how the lidar, a system which detects and measures distance with a laser, was able to illuminate the space so that the car could do the object detection, localization, and tracking that it needs to do in order to safely drive itself.
Ford demonstrated the car’s ability to continue operating in low visibility even when the camera is out of the equation. The company’s research vehicle didn’t navigate moving objects or people in this test but, nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction and this technology will only continue to evolve so that one day our cars are able to drive themselves safely in complete darkness.