Recently we reported that Ford Motor Company and Google are set to revolutionize autonomous vehicle technology through their Joint Venture. Now the auto-maker is on the way to expand its fleet of Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles to boost the on-road testing of the tech-mech and development of its virtual driver software in both urban and suburban environments. The expansion of the fleet will make it the largest fully autonomous vehicle fleet of all automakers.
Ford will add 20 Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles to the existing line up of 10. The fleet of 30 vehicles will undergo on-road testings in California, Arizona and Michigan. These self-driving vehicles are part of Ford Smart Mobility plan that will lift the company to the next level in connectivity, mobility, customer experience, and data analytics.
The new fleet will be equipped with new-generation sensor technology by Velodyne. The newest LiDAR sensors – named Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK are the first auto-specific LiDAR sensors capable of handling different driving scenarios. The PUCK suffix adds to the name due to the sensor’s hockey puck-like size and shape. The Auto sensors will accelerate the development and validation of Ford’s virtual driver software, which serves as the decision-making brain that directs vehicle systems. It also boast a long range of 200 meters and provides much useful data due to the more targeted field of view.
Ford was among the first to use the Velodyne LiDAR sensor and been using their tech for almost a decade. The LiDar sensor tech has significantly changed the self-driving vehicle horizon. The Fusion Hybrid sedans of the second generation platform were fitted with Velodyne LiDAR HDL-32E sensor. The LiDAR sensors precisely scan the surrounding environment by emitting short pulses of laser light at around million times per second. The sensors determine the distance to objects, allowing the vehicle to create a real-time, high-definition 3D image of its surroundings.
Ford recently announced its third gen autonomous Fusion Hybrid sedans will drive through the streets of California this year. The carmaker has already tested autonomous vehicles in their facility, public roads as well as a 32-acre, full-scale simulated real-world urban environment at the University of Michigan.
Apart from the tech provided by Velodyne, Ford continues to work on different types of sensors, cameras, radar and ultrasonic devices. These devices offer semi-autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control, active park assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping aid, pedestrian detection, Pro Trailer Backup Assist and vehicle-to-vehicle connection technology to millions of Ford owners currently.