By Douglas Newcomb Dec 13, 2013
In collaboration with the University of Michigan and auto insurer State Farm, Ford will use the Fusion Hybrid to test future technologies for self-driving cars.
With the introduction of a Fusion Hybrid “automated research vehicle,” Ford officially joins the self-driving car race among automakers and also Google.
The vehicle is a collaboration with the University of Michigan and insurer State Farm, and will be used to not only further the future of automated driving, but also try related technologies such as driver assist systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.
Ford chose the Fusion Hybrid since the current version already offers several driver-assist technologies, including adaptive cruise control and a lane keeping system. “Much of the equipment on the vehicle is on the cars we have in production now: forward camera, forward radar, ultrasonic sensors all around it,” Raj Nair, Ford’s group vice president of global product development, told MSN at a press event in Detroit.
“We also added more GPS [technology] to get a more precise location as well as an omnidirectional camera,” Nair said. “At the same time we’re using it to do some 3D mapping, because that will be key to automated driving in the future.”
The Fusion Hybrid research vehicle also has four scanning infrared light sensors, also known as LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging), mounted on the roof like those used on Google’s autonomous vehicles.
According to Ford, the sensors scan the road 2.5 million times per second and “bounce infrared light off everything within 200 feet to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment.” Ford added that the LiDAR sensors “can track anything dense enough to redirect light — whether stationary objects, or moving objects such as vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists,” and that they’re “so sensitive they can sense the difference between a paper bag and a small animal at nearly a football field away.”