The Blue Oval's self-driving cars have been tackling the mean streets of Detroit.
Automakers around the world are clamoring to perfect their self-driving vehicles, and many are teaming up with outside specialists to make it happen. That includes Ford, which is now testing its third-generation autonomous vehicle in cities across America.
The self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid is being developed with Argo AI, the Pittsburg and Silicon Valley-based startup that's at the forefront of the autonomous-vehicle revolution. And its latest iteration is the most advanced yet, benefiting from new developments that are not only closer to being ready for widespread implementation but make for a more comfortable ride as well.
That includes new sensors that can see other objects on and around the road in higher resolution, and a new computing system to process what those sensors are picking up, while generating less heat and noise inside the vehicle – something that will undoubtedly be welcome by occupants as we shift from driving ourselves to being driven by computers. The vehicle also has more redundant braking and steering systems to better ensure that it can keep moving safely even if part of the system fails (as computers sometimes do).
Ford and Argo are testing the latest autonomous Fusion prototypes in five very different urban environments to help hone the technology and prepare it for whatever might arise out on the road. That includes Pittsburg, Palo Alto, Miami, Washington, and now Detroit – the heart of America's automotive industry and a more diverse city filled with varying roadways, often unmarked lanes, constant construction, overhanging tree branches – all in Ford's back yard.
"Riding through the historic Corktown neighborhood and passing Michigan Central Station on our way downtown, I couldn't help but be struck by this milestone," said Argo AI president Peter Rander.
"Almost three decades after I left the automotive industry in Detroit and began researching computer vision and other self-driving technologies at Carnegie Mellon University, here I was back in my old haunt, experiencing our latest creation as it navigated streets and routed itself past new construction projects," recalled Rander after riding in the back of the latest prototype. "My first experience in the automotive industry involved witnessing how new technology was integrated into cars, which inspired me to think about how we could take advantage of even more advanced ideas. With self-driving vehicles, that's exactly what we're doing now at Argo, working hand-in-hand with automakers like Ford."