While Googles self-driving cars are tackling the dry, sunny streets of California, Ford dealers are taking on a decidedly different kind of challengesnow.
For everyone who lives outside of the Golden State, snow can make driving mildly irritating at best, life-threatening at worst. While Googles self-driving cars are typically programmed to pull over in inclement weather, Fords driverless cars are plunging headlong into the blizzard.
Operating on a 32-acre closed course at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, Fords driverless cars employ a combination of Light Detection and Ranging (Lidar) sensors and highly detailed 3D maps to direct the car when snowy conditions obscure road markings. Lidar sensors detect buildings and landmarks above ground, and then compare them to an existing high-resolution map of the road.
For drivers in snowy locations such as Utah, driverless cars will have to be able to handle anything Mother Nature throws at them. Fords new driverless carsmodified versions of the Ford Fusion Hybrid currently available at nationwide Ford dealersare equipped with electronic stability control and traction control, which work in unison with the autonomous driving software to protect against accidents in places like wintry Utah.
In addition, Fords driverless cars are being programmed to sense when driving conditions are simply too dangerous.
Weather isn’t perfect, and that’s why we’re testing autonomous vehicles in wintry conditionsfor the roughly 70 per cent of US residents who live in snowy regions, said Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles Jim McBride. We eventually want our autonomous vehicles to detect deteriorating conditions, decide whether it’s safe to keep driving, and if so, for how long.
Ford is also working on smart watch applications for its autonomous cars that would be able to tell if the driver is impaired or otherwise in need of medical assistance. In Fords most electrically advanced car to hit lots on dealers nationwide, the new driverless Fusion Hybrid is set to take on the snowy roads of Utah sooner than youd think.