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Self-driving Ford on show

2014-02-25 09:35

FUTURE FORD TECH: Ford's research car demonstrates technology that could be implemented in the automaker's future autonomous vehicles. Not the sensors on the roof. Image: Ford

• Ford to use research car to test automated driving
• Car scans to detect distant objects
• Project in partnership with Aachen University

BARCELONA, Spain – Ford showcased its automated research car at the 2014 Mobile World Congress.

The car will serve as the platform for automated-driving research.

It has four infra-red LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors that scan the environment for vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and even small animals.

A real-time 3D map is generated by bouncing infra-red light off objects within 70m and calculating the distance between the vehicle and those objects at a rate of 2.5 million measurements per second.


Ford collaborated with the University of Michigan and insurance company State Farm to develop the vehicle.

In January 2014, Ford launched two US research projects intended to deliver a greater level of intuition for automated driving technology. Ford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are using advanced algorithms to help the car “learn” to predict the future locations of moving vehicles and pedestrians.

Ford and Stanford University are exploring how the vehicle could automatically manoeuvre so the sensors could see around obstacles.

In Europe, Ford announced a research project with Aachen University to explore the development of human-machine interfaces, which enable drivers to retake control easily and override automated functions at any time. One of the most important tools of these studies will be a highly sophisticated driving simulator.

Chief technical officer and vice-president of Ford Research and Innovation, Paul Mascarenas, said: “Automated driving may well help us improve safety and manage issues such as traffic congestion and global gridlock, yet there are still many questions that need to be answered and explored to make it a long-term reality.

“With the automated Ford research vehicle, our goal is to test the limits of full automation and determine the appropriate levels for near- and mid-term deployment.”


The automated research car also builds on driver-in-control studies conducted in Ford’s VIRTTEX (VIRtual test track experiment) driving simulator in the US, enabling researchers to study how to merge the capabilities of human and autonomous drivers to create an integrated experience.

Ford aims to develop functions that alert drivers to traffic jams and crashes; that assist parking and driving in slow traffic; ultimately, fully automated navigation and parking. With these technologies and others that one day could allow a driver to be driven to a destination, the driver will need to be engaged and able to take control of the wheel if necessary.

Mascarenas said: “Products such as Ford’s automated research car give us a head start in the development of automated features. Our 'Blueprint for Mobility' aligns the desired outcomes of our work in automated functionality with the democratisation of driver-assistance technology found on today’s Ford products.”

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