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.
Ryan W. Wolcott and Ryan M. Eustice (2014) “Visual Localization within LIDAR Maps for Automated Urban Driving” (IROS 2014)