Ford is moving forward with its autonomous vehicle aspirations, and the latest piece to the puzzle is a next generation hardware suite that makes this feat possible. The electrical controls used are closer to being production ready, and Ford says the sensors used are able to see the world better than before - partially thanks to improved hardware, and partially thanks to better placement around the vehicle.
New LiDAR sensors also have a more integrated design and no longer look like huge antennas on the car's roof. Electrical controls are now closer to production form, suggesting the project is beginning to bridge the gap between expensive testbed and a showroom model. The Detroit automaker already is testing autonomous vehicles with safety drivers on roads in Michigan, California and Arizona, and has said it will have a fully autonomous vehicle ready for use in a ride-sharing service by 2021. "We plan to grow the fleet even more, tripling its size to about 90 cars in the new year", Brewer said.
"Electrical controls are closer to production-ready, and adjustments to the sensor technology, including placement, allow the vehicle to better see what's around it", he said.
At CES 2106, Ford announced it was adding 20 first-generation autonomous Fusion Hybrids to an original fleet of 10 introduced in late 2013, for a total of 30 test vehicles.
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The auto is a firm leap toward the company's goal of developing a fully-autonomous - defined as an Society of Engineers level-4 - vehicle, which doesn't require a driver to take the reins of the auto.
The automaker is still making adjustments to the sensor technology.
The car's updates are focused on its virtual driver system, with the vehicle's brain located in the trunk. The cars' "virtual driver system" uses cameras and radar sensors as well as lidar (light detection and ranging) feeding data to the onboard computer, which also uses 3-D maps. In it, the equivalent of several high-end computers generate 1 terabyte of data an hour (more than what the average person would use in mobile-phone data in 45 years), the company says. And it's got to redesign the vehicle before it's market-ready, because the finished product won't have a steering wheel or pedals.