Published: Thu, December 29, 2016
Research | By Francis Brooks

Ford shows off a sleeker self-driving vehicle

Ford shows off a sleeker self-driving vehicle

Ford says the technology is getting closer to production levels and will debut next-generation updates for its driverless vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in early January. The new vehicle uses the same vehicle platform, as the Fusion Hybrid hasn't received any update recently, but comes with new computer hardware.

Specifically, Ford now has electrical controls for the entire self-driving system that are described as closer to production-ready, and the sensors have been adjusted and placed in a way that makes them more efficient.

New LiDAR sensors also have a more integrated design and no longer look like huge antennas on the car's roof.

The next-gen Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle still uses the company's current generation model, which was introduced to the streets three years ago but evolves the entire autonomous platform and also the virtual driver system. 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 auto.

Tesla is now producing all of its new vehicles with fully autonomous hardware.

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Also, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles delivered 100 uniquely outfitted Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans to Waymo - previously Google's Self-Driving Car Project - so that the tech giant can outfit the minivans with its self-driving technology.

Ford's first-generation autonomous test vehicles have four lidar sensors arrayed on a roof rack rail, while on the latest version they're attached to the car's A pillars.

"These new sensors possess a sensing range roughly the length of two football fields in every direction", Brewer said. Over the next year, the auto maker plans to triple the self-driving testing fleet to 90. These cameras work to identify objects and read traffic lights on the road. The former will be testing its autonomous vehicles in Munich, starting from 2017. Ford says that's more than the average person would use in mobile phone data in 45 years.

Brewer concluded by saying, "an expanded fleet is accelerating our real-world testing already taking place on the roads in Michigan, California and Arizona".

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