Ford has taken its driverless vehicle testing to town, trying out a fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid on a simulated urban environment at the University of Michigan.
The tests were run at Mcity – a controlled real-world urban environment that’s part of the university’s Mobility Transformation Centre. The 32-acre facility provides real-world scenarios that cannot be safely replicated on the real world’s public roads – things such as running red lights or turning the wrong way on a one-way street. The facility is set up like a town, complete with street lights, trees, pedestrian crossings, bike lanes and even construction zones. Ford becomes the first automaker to test autonomous vehicles at the facility.
“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.”
Ford has been testing its autonomous technologies for more than 10 years at various facilities around the world, including the HORIBA MIRA test facility in Nuneaton England (HORIBA MIRA is a world-leader in advanced engineering, research and product testing for the Automotive, Aerospace, Rail and Defence industries), and has been developing the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle’s sensing systems at the University of Michigan for two years.
The test at Mcity allowed the car to experience a variety of manoeuvres on multi-lane roads as well as ramps, tunnels and roundabouts to see how well the LiDAR sensors interact with the car’s various driving assist technologies. LiDAR (a portmanteau for Light and Radar) is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by hitting a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light to generate a 3D rendering of the environment around the vehicle. LiDAR was the exclusive technology used in the first adaptive cruise control systems.
For autonomous driving, LiDAR is used to get a sense of what obstacles are in the vehicle’s general vicinity, judge their movements and then interact with driving aids such as automated braking or steering to execute avoidance manoeuvres or negotiate turns.