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Sensor fusion, machine learning, and “big data” featuring in Ford R&D for advanced driver assistance

At Ford, Paul Mascarenas, vice president and chief technical officer, has been leading the team researching and developing new technologies for Ford vehicles, particularly in the area of driver assistance and mobile device connectivity. Mascarenas points to the new Fusion sedan as an example of “making the car smarter using attainable and affordable technology and thus helping create a better driver.

However, he suggests, despite the “unprecedented” level of sensors for its driver assist technologies, machine learning techniques to deliver more electric-only driving on the hybrids, and innovative graphical interfaces to help coach drivers to be as fuel efficient as possible, the Fusion is only scratching the surface of what is possible.

With more than 145 actuators, 4,716 signals, and 74 sensors including radar, sonar, cameras, accelerometers, temperature and even rain sensors, the 2013 Fusion can monitor the perimeter around the car and see into places that are not readily visible from the driver’s seat. These sensors produce more than 25 gigabytes of data per hour which is analyzed by more than 70 on-board computers. The actuators combined with signal information from the driver assist sensors can alert the driver to potential dangers, and actively assist with parking and lane keeping.

In the Fusion, we have sensors and actuators that act independently as part of the assist features. The next phase, currently in research, involves sensor fusion [earlier post, earlier post], where engineers learn how to more comprehensively characterize the environment by blending multiple signals, and add externally available information through cloud connectivity.

—Paul Mascarenas

According to Mascarenas’ predictions, top areas for car technology innovation in the coming years will include:

  • “Big data” analysis and intelligent decision making. Ford is researching the use of real-time sensor data—radar and camera-based—that can help evaluate external factors affecting driver attention, such as traffic congestion, and thus limit potential distractions such as an incoming phone call.

  • Upgradeable, customizable hardware. Ford’s OpenXC research platform looks at the potential for open-source, community-driven innovation of plug-and-play hardware modules that provide infinite opportunities for rapid customization.

  • Seamless integration across cloud ecosystems. Ford SYNC has an open, agnostic platform strategy that has allowed for adoption and compatibility with the burgeoning mobile ecosystem; the next step is to do the same for the consumer shift toward cloud-based services.

  • Advanced machine learning. The new Fusion and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrids utilize EV+, a feature that learns the typical locations of charging, such as home and office, and then automatically maximizes electric-only driving mode when nearing those locations. (Earlier post.)

  • Biometrics. Ford is researching biometric sensors, such as those embedded in a car seat, to measure stress levels for a more personalized response from driver assist technologies, because skill levels—and thus stress—can vary in certain situations.

  • Prediction. Ford researchers are looking at ways to predict driver behavior, such as a driver’s destination based on prior history, to help optimize and configure vehicle controls for improved performance such as better energy management.

  • Rapid data authentication. Ford sees significant potential in vehicle-to-vehicle communications and is actively researching the technology globally, including advanced Wi-Fi with rapid authentication capability so that cars can exchange information quickly and securely, helping drivers avoid potential collisions. (Earlier post.)

All of these areas of research are well within our reach. The key to readiness and implementation in Ford vehicles is ensuring the customer experience of these technology features trumps the technology itself.

—Paul Mascarenas



Where are Starbucks and Victoria's Secret ?

I might have missed Starbuck's program but I know these are just about the only one or two entities NOT talking about Advanced Driver Assistance.


Application of this stuff could be automated public transport.


Ford has been worried about this for a long long while(Well, at least the family has been vocal about this)

A truly driverless car could be extremely beneficial in several ways... it may seem odd now, but there are so many advantages to a society without drivers.

No matter how you slice it a person is involved in all accidents, and somewhere along the way someone is at fault. Removing the cause of the vast majority of accidents is a great but there is more to it than pulling idiots off the road.

Traffic and other concerns over resources plague peoples lives today, and projections only lead to more costs and more traffic. A driverless car can address both handily.

The cloud has a lot to do with mitigating traffic, accident avoidance, detours, suggested travel times ect, ideally if it were in tandem with a driverless car you could expand on it by taking the need for multicar families away. Heck, there could be a day when most families don't own a car.

Autonomy can mean that one car can be there for many people, it leaves with the Father drops him off at work, swings back home (on its own), picks up Mother and the kids and brings them to school, then Mom to work, but then there is Grandma she has a doctors appointment the car can do this(even if she is incapable of driving herself)... and its only limited by commutes; with the cloud those commutes can be predicted with great accuracy and forecasted to the end users giving them the ability to plan or not plan trips.

Heck the car sharing/taxi/carpooling community will have a tremendous advantage. the ability to be available to a much larger audience, better planning and dispatching of resources can only improve and expand on these services

Bob Wallace

Take it further. Some people don't take public transportation because they want the comfort of not being smashed in with other riders.

Put some 'first class' cars on the right light rail, subway. Charge a bit more for an assured seat and no one standing in the aisles.

Meet the cars with an ample number of self-driven cars that will whisk occupants to their destination.

Overall a first class seat should be cheaper than the cost of driving your own car and paying for parking. A self-driving car should be cheaper than a taxi.

The rider could work or relax all the way to and from work. It would be close to what people now get by using their own car and hiring a driver.

Have some upscale self-driving cars for those who need to be seen as "more equal".


the technology is fairly proven already, and is only getting better... several industries are developing the technologies.. from video games, transportation, industry, personal computers to cellular phones.
The hardware might be the easiest thing to overcome.

Cameras and light sources, ladar, radar ect. are all very cheap to manufacture.

The hardest thing would be to agree on would be a standard. How and in which fashion to take in data, and how to share it amongst all the drivers/cars.

Heck, if we do away with TPMS sensors and all of its headaches (replace it with a revolution counter and software)we could easily differ all the costs that might have been... and the customer would also be happy.


Driver less city e-buses (like operator less e-elevators) could save cities a fortune.

Every city bus driver cost our city a total of $122,000 (Can)/year and they are impolite and never satisfied. They refuse to wear their uniform, look untidy in their old jeans, baseball caps, long hair and beard.

With the savings from driver less (about 72% of the current total cost) e-buses we could have twice as many buses, much better service, less pollution, less noise etc

That is the way to go...


As an interim or added driver assistance, Google Type TV Glasses could. with a few mini-camera, give the driver a 360 view of what is happening around his/her vehicle to avoid creating accidents.

Of course, future automated driving will achieve much more much quicker.

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