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Autonomous Cars Can Navigate In The Dark Better Than You

While driving at night with your headlights off is a serious offense that could have catastrophic consequences, what if the person driving wasn’t you? What if it’s not a person at all? Ford Motor company have been testing autonomous vehicles getting their bearings during the night without any lights. If that sounds like science fiction to you that’s because at one point it was unfathomable that cars could even be autonomous but with the advent of technology and the massive funding and interest pouring in from the public for the ultimate convenience, cars that can drive themselves and passengers, are starting to become a reality.

The test vehicles were fitted with LIDAR sensors instead of headlights and cameras and Ford put it to the test on Ford’s Proving Ground in Arizona. As part of the carmaker’s Ford’s Smart Mobility program, the R&D department was implemented by Ford to drive all future-prone technology development projects ranging from digitization of mobility, connectivity and of course autonomous driving.

Ford believes that night rides will mark the next step towards developing completely autonomous vehicles. If Ford can prove that a car can rely entirely on LIDAR technology eliminating the need for cameras and visible light than the first major milestone will be accomplished. The LIDAR sensors can scan surroundings up to 2.8 million times a second and in connection with a high-resolution digital 3D road-map and the virtual driver software, the vehicle was able to follow twisting roads in a safe and precise manner utilizing LIDAR.

The data is then stored and compared to previous digital high-resolution comprehensive data to describe and navigate the road, geography, topography, and even traffic, trees and lights. LIDAR technology is quite expensive so it wasn’t until recently that developments in LIDAR technology has significantly become more cost-effective and widely available as a result. In co-operation with the RWTH technical university of Aachen (Germany), Ford is at the forefront of autonomous vehicles in Europe and is developing innovative HMI concepts that will be an indispensable part of the evolution from driver assistance system to one hundred percent fully autonomous vehicles.


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