The Ford vehicle unveiled at the Mobile World Congress is the result of more than 10 years of corporate research dedicated to automated driving functions and will be used to further develop sensors and driver assistance systems for next-gen vehicles. With the platform, the carmaker intends to fathom out technological issues associated to automated driving as well as legal and societal ones.
The trial vehicle uses a rotating Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) sensor located on the roof to scan the surroundings with a range of some 70 meters (230 feet). According to Ford, the sensor can identify vehicles, pedestrians, bicycle drivers and even small animals. The data generated are transformed in real-time into a virtual 3D map that contains all the objects detected with direction and distance to the vehicle. During the development of the vehicle, Ford collaborated -- among others -- with the University of Michigan and US insurance group State Farm. While the work of the university scientists focused on the development of the sensors and control computers, the collaboration with the insurance company aimed at evaluating the chances and risks of autonomous driving.
In 2014, Ford launched two new research projects in the US designed to deepen the understanding of autonomous driving.
In collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Ford is trying to find out how a vehicle can predict the movement trajectories of other traffic participants including pedestrians by means of innovative algorithms. At the same time, the carmaker is developing solutions to how vehicles can circumvent obstacles to keep the further traffic development in sight; this project is conducted along with the Standard University.
In Europe, Ford collaborates with the Aachen Technical University RWTH in developing innovative HMI concepts. Ford assumes that HMI design is a crucial component to implement autonomous driving since they bundle the entire interaction between vehicle and driver. This is an important factor since the driver must be able to resume the control over the vehicle in very short time, if necessary.
The Ford test platform, based on a series of Focus vehicles, also contains a number of advanced driver assistance systems, such as a parallel parking assistant, automatic city stop or voice control for audio systems, air conditioning, and navigation system. For the design of the platform, Ford utilized the results of its “Driver in Control” analysis, conducted on the company's Virtual Test Track Experiment (VIRTTEX) driving simulator.
This story originally appeared on EE Times Europe.