This technology is revolutionary.
Although it is eerily simple to make a Tesla drive without someone behind the wheel, there are no self-driving vehicles available on the market today. Period. However, that doesn't mean automakers aren't working tirelessly to make this technology a reality. In 2020, Ford and Volkswagen announced a partnership stake in a company called Argo AI, which develops autonomous vehicle technology.
The Pittsburgh-based company just announced a breakthrough called Argo Lidar, which it says will detect difficult-to-see objects from long distances (around 400 meters) with greater precision. Argo says this technology will help clear the largest hurdles in developing and commercializing autonomous delivery vehicles and ride-hail services.
The Argo Self-Driving System (SDS) can spin 360-degrees, maintaining awareness during the day or night. With this system, a car can safely navigate through city streets, suburban neighborhoods, or highways without a driver. Lidar is the same technology used in Cadillac's Super Cruise system but at a more advanced level. Custom-designed sensors and high-performance computing help the Argo SDS see vehicles that reflect less than one percent of light using an advanced "Geiger-mode" sensing.
In practical terms, Argo says its system can navigate left-hand turns with oncoming traffic, manage transitions from darkness to bright light, and pick out small objects such as animals, all using a single sensor.
Though this breakthrough technology is pictured testing on a 2021 Ford Escape, it is far from consumer-ready. Argo AI will begin a scaled operation with testing and development in six US cities, with additional cities to come online later this year and expansion into Europe.
The autonomous fleet will operate on suburban routes for middle- and last-mile delivery and ride-hailing routes to and from airports. It's unclear when we will see this technology in a production Ford or Volkswagen, but both automakers are working quickly to adopt this technology.