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Ford first to test autonomous vehicle at U Michigan Mcity

Ford is the first automaker to test autonomous vehicles at Mcity—the full-scale simulated real-world urban environment at the University of Michigan. (Earlier post.) The 32-acre facility is part of the university’s Mobility Transformation Center.

Ford has been testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years and is now expanding testing on the diversity of roads and realistic neighborhoods of Mcity near the North Campus Research Complex to accelerate research of advanced sensing technologies.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle merges today’s driver-assist technologies, such as front-facing cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, and adds four Velodyne LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment.

Mcity opened in July. The full-scale urban environment provides real-world road scenarios—such as running a red light—that can’t be replicated on public roads.

There are street lights, crosswalks, lane delineators, curb cuts, bike lanes, trees, hydrants, sidewalks, signs, traffic control devices—even construction barriers. Here, Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle is tested over a range of surfaces—concrete, asphalt, simulated brick and dirt—and maneuvers two-, three- and four-lane roads, as well as ramps, roundabouts and tunnels.

The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor. Every mile driven there can represent 10, 100 or 1,000 miles of on-road driving in terms of our ability to pack in the occurrences of difficult events.

—Ryan Eustice, University of Michigan associate professor and principal investigator in Ford’s research collaboration with the university

Ford revealed its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle with University of Michigan and State Farm Insurance in 2013 in an effort to advance sensing systems so these technologies could be integrated into Ford’s next-generation vehicles. (Earlier post.)

Earlier this year, Ford announced it moved its research efforts in autonomous vehicle technology to the next step in development, to the advanced engineering phase. The team is working to make sensing and computing technologies feasible for production while continuing to test and refine algorithms.

Along with testing at Mcity and on public roads, Ford’s autonomous fleet has been put through the paces at the company’s vehicle development facilities in Dearborn and Romeo, Michigan.



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Ford and Google are doing a lot of good work on autonomous driving technology. However, they are making a bad choice IMO when applying sensors that are visually ugly and also lowers the air drag coefficient. Volvo and Tesla are only using sensors that are out of sight and that does not negatively affect the aerodynamics of the car.

I am sure that at some point LIDAR (the mechanically rotating stuff on the roof of this Ford or Google's car) will be dropped for autonomous cars because while it work fine in an unrealistic test environment in the real world it is too costly, bulky and difficult to integrate seamlessly in a car. Stick with 3D stereo cameras, radars and ultrasonic sensors. They cost little and are easy to integrate seamlessly in the car. The software will have to be rewritten once you realise that LIDAR is not the best choice for autonomous cars and that will set Ford and Google back by a year or two versus the competition.

Time is of essence. The world critically needs fully autonomous cars in order to go mainstream with taxi BEV services. Batteries will never fall significantly below 100 USD per kwh at the cell level and about 130 USD at the pack level so they will never be economically viable for ownership among the cheapest cars. You really need 100kwh or minimum 13000 USD of battery pack (even in 2030) to make a no compromise BEV. However, BEV taxis can lower the capital cost per miles driven by 80% because you can drive them at least five times as much as a privately owned car and BEVs can be build to last a million miles witch is also five times longer than gassers and fuel cells. So problem with expensive batteries is solved with autonomous cars.


How about FORD stop dragging it's feet on a Better CMAX Energi and a better battery. GM puts them to shame.

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