Ford’s Newest Car Can See In The Dark
A Fusion Hybrid self-driving car navigated dark desert roads with no headlights
A Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle headed out onto dark desert roads recently with no headlights. This test, performing a task that would be dangerous for a human driver, marked the next step in the company’s journey to deliver fully autonomous cars to customers around the world.
The self-driving car concept has night vision, eliminating the need to spend energy on lighting the way ahead and allowing for a completely different experience while traveling in the car at night. This development could also improve road safety, as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data has found that the fatality rate during dark hours is about three times higher than the daytime rate.
The test took place at Ford’s Arizona Proving Ground, using LiDAR sensors and the car’s virtual driver software. To navigate in the dark, Ford self-driving cars use high-resolution 3D maps, along with information about the road, markings, geography, topography and landmarks like signs, buildings and trees. LiDAR pulses enable the car to pinpoint itself on the map in real-time. Additional data from radar results in full sensing capability for the autonomous vehicle.
Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles, said in a press release:
“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 engineers wore night-vision goggles to monitor the Fusion from inside and out. These allowed them to see the LiDAR doing its job, as a grid of infrared laser beams projected around the vehicle as it drove past. LiDAR sensors shoot out 2.8 million laser pulses a second to precisely scan the surrounding environment. You can check out Ford’s autonomous vehicle testing in the video below: