Ford’s Project Nightonomy: Advancing autonomous tech
Intent on stepping up its autonomous driving efforts, Ford recently completed the Project Nightonomy in which a special Lidar-equipped Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicle with no headlights successfully navigated a challenging closed course after dark at the automaker’s Arizona Proving Grounds.
“Thanks to Lidar (Light detection and ranging), the test cars aren’t reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt,” noted Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles. McBride says the system, which interfaces with the car’s virtual driver software, proved capable of negotiating challenging winding roads on the APG in complete darkness without putting a single wheel awry. In addition to Lidar pulses that provide precise real-time specific positioning, Ford’s self-driving vehicle fleet employs high-resolution 3D maps containing information about the roads, markings, geography and topography including key landmarks. The system also benefits from input provided by on-board radar.
Ford plans to triple its autonomous test fleet this year as part of its Smart Mobility program. The automaker expects to have about 30 Fusion Hybrid sedans take part in more comprehensive on-road testing regimens in Arizona, California and Michigan.
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