27 Apr
Ford's Autonomous Fusion Uses LiDAR to 'See' in the Dark Ford's Autonomous Fusion Uses LiDAR to 'See' in the Dark

Ford's Autonomous Fusion Uses LiDAR to 'See' in the Dark

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Skepticism about the reliability of autonomous cars is easy to understand when trying to envision an automated vehicle navigating bad weather or hazardous road conditions. Guidance systems that rely on GPS and LiDAR technology (which uses a laser light to measure distance) can help with those concerns. But what about driving in the dark?

Ford Motor Company decided to find out, stripping its Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle of headlights and piloting it along abandoned desert byways -- something could easily place a human driver in danger.

Nevertheless, the tests proceeded at the Ford Arizona Proving Ground, proving that a car without cameras (which need at least some light to be effective) could steer without error around winding highways. Ford's LiDAR, working in tandem with the Fusion's virtual driver software, proved up to the task -- so much so, says the company, that it became evident that LiDAR can get the job done by itself on roads without stoplights, though it's always good to have cameras and radar to complete the array of sensors.

Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles, says, “Thanks to LiDAR, the test cars aren’t reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt. In fact, LiDAR allows autonomous cars to drive just as well in the dark as they do in the light of day.”

Ford's self-driving cars navigate the darkness by relying on high-resolution 3D maps and LiDAR pulses to pinpoint location.

As one Ford research engineer notes, “As I rode in the back seat, I was following the car’s progression in real time using computer monitoring. Sure enough, it stayed precisely on track along those winding roads.”

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Read 1841 times Last modified on Sunday, 17 April 2016 04:40
Jim Lillie

Jim began writing for newspapers and designing for publishing companies at a time when both industries were just beginning to make the switch from manual to digital platforms. Jim lives in Boulder, Colorado with his teenage son.

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