If you are one of the many who hate driving at night, Ford’s latest tests for its autonomous Fusion model will appeal to you. Ford’s latest tests focused on improving autonomous driving in dark conditions. If autonomous vehicles will ever be safe to drive on standard roads and be sold commercially, these kinds of tests are essential. Most self-driving cars are tested during daylight hours so all of their electronic systems can work in concert.
Ford’s self-driving cars rely on radar, cameras, and LiDAR sensors to detect road lines, obstacles and keep track of its position. Ford engineers had the Fusion lap its Arizona Proving Grounds in complete darkness, using only LiDAR to guide it. LiDAR technology sends out approximately 2.8 million laser pulses a second to give the vehicle a 3D map of its surroundings.
After completing tests, Ford announced that the Fusion Hybrid model was able to perform “beyond the limits of human drivers” in the dark. The vehicle was able to rely on LiDAR technology alone to steer around winding roads without incident. On-board computers instantly detected where the car was in relation to the landscape data provided by the laser scans.
During the tests, safety drivers were present in the Fusion wearing military-grade night vision goggles to monitor the car’s performance. A video was released by Ford showing the results of the tests. The video showed how an autonomous vehicle might operate in a situation which many humans find worrying. As more consumers view the video, the chances will increase that they will view the vehicles favorably, quickly bringing them mainstream once they are released.
The self driving Ford Fusion would be a direct challenge to the models being developed by Google. Google revealed its plans to develop a self-driving car a few years ago. Those vehicles are now being tested on California roads. Other companies have also jumped on the bandwagon, developing their own cars to compete with Google’s. Google has said it expects self-driving cars to become consumer ready by 2019.
Automakers and technology companies believe that self-driving cars would considerably reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities attributed to human error. They could also be a powerful future revenue earner with widespread adoption. Ford is reportedly planning to triple its autonomous test fleet in the near future to a total of 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans. Ford will be testing its vehicles at its Silicon Valley outpost in Palo Alto and at Mcity, a faux city for automotive testing located outside of Ann Arbor, Mich.