With just a few days to go until the opening of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford is preparing to unveil its next generation autonomous development vehicle as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to having a fully autonomous ride-sharing vehicle ready by 2021.
From the outside, the Ford Fusion Hybrid (sold as the Mondeo in Australia, sans hybrid) may not look too different from a regular Fusion available in Ford dealers across the US right now, but look a little closer and you’ll notice an array of cameras, lasers, and radars designed to give the cars in the development fleet a 360 degree view of their surrounds.
The next generation vehicles use the same autonomous vehicle platform previously developed by Ford, but upgraded further with new computer hardware allowing faster calculations.
Ford has also redesigned the autonomous vehicle’s LIDAR sensors, making them smaller, with a targeted field of vision allowing the number of sensors to drop from four to two. The vehicle's sensing range now extends the equivalent of two American-sized football fields (or roughly 180 metres) in every direction.
The new generation of autonomous Ford vehicles takes over from the original fleet of 30, which first hit the pavement three years ago with Ford aiming to have an SAE level 4-capable vehicle available by 2021.
Level 4 capability refers to an autonomous vehicle that is able to control all aspects of driving free from human intervention or attention with all but very few situations able to be handled by the vehicle.
During 2017 Ford is expected to triple the number of autonomous development vehicles it has on its fleet, with testing to take place both at Ford’s proving grounds, as well as on public streets in California, Arizona, and Michigan.
The Consumer Electronics Show is set to open from the 3rd of January with Ford joining a number of other automakers displaying advanced infotainment, connectivity, and autonomous technologies.