Ford took the next step in its "Blueprint for Mobility" this month, revealing an automated research vehicle based on the Fusion Hybrid. Working in cooperation with the University of Michigan and State Farm, Ford will use the car to test next-generation sensor systems that enhance automated awareness.
"The Ford Fusion Hybrid automated vehicle represents a vital step toward our vision for the future of mobility," says Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. "We see a future of connected cars that communicate with each other and the world around them to make driving safer, ease traffic congestion and sustain the environment."
Ford chose the Fusion Hybrid as the platform for its automated research because the production car is already equipped with a generous suite of "best in class" self-driving technologies. Those include radar-based adaptive cruise control, radar-based collision warning with brake support, and camera-powered lane keeping aid with driver alerts and steering assist.
On top of those standard features, the automated research vehicle gets four LIDAR sensors that scan the road at 2.5 million times per second, developing a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment. That data, which Ford says is sensitive enough to distinguish between a paper bag and a small animal from hundreds of feet away, will be analyzed by the researchers toward helping develop future driver-assistance systems. The LIDAR system is capable of sensing any object within 200 feet (61 m) that is dense enough to redirect infrared light.
Bill Ford detailed Ford's Blueprint for Mobility at Mobile World Congress 2012. The multi-year plan outlines a vision for the progression of automated technologies, intelligent cars and complete coordinated transportation systems.
The blueprint calls for Ford to improve upon existing driver assistance systems, including introducing some vehicle-to-vehicle communications, in the short term. From there, it plans to introduce semi-autonomous vehicles that have an "auto pilot" mode for certain situations, as well as advance vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications technologies, within a 2017 to 2025 window.
Looking ahead from 2025, Ford imagines the arrival of fully autonomous vehicles, along with a "radically different transportation landscape where pedestrian, bicycle, private car, commercial and public transportation traffic will be woven into a single connected network to save time, conserve resources, lower emissions and improve safety."
"In the future, automated driving may well help us improve driver safety and manage issues such as traffic congestion and global gridlock, yet there are still many questions that need to be answered and explored to make it a long-term reality,” says Raj Nair, group vice president, Ford global product development. "With the automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research project, our goal is to test the limits of full automation and determine the appropriate levels for near- and mid-term deployment."