Ford says it is tripling its fleet of Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles this year and claims that makes the company's fully autonomous vehicle fleet the largest of all automakers. It also says it will accelerate the development and testing of its virtual driver software in both urban and suburban environments
This year, Ford will add 20 Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles, bringing the company's autonomous fleet to about 30 vehicles being tested on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan.
"Using the most advanced technology and expanding our test fleet are clear signs of our commitment to make autonomous vehicles available for millions of people," said Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer. "With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter."
Ford recently announced its fully autonomous cars will take to the streets of California this year. The company already tests autonomous vehicles at its proving grounds, as well as on public roads in Michigan. Ford was the first automaker to test a fully autonomous vehicle at Mcity – a 32-acre, full-scale simulated real-world urban environment at the University of Michigan.
Ford is also saying that there are significant advances in sensor technology currently. It is using Velodyne's newest LiDAR sensors – named Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto for its hockey puck-like size and shape – on its third-generation autonomous vehicle platform.
Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto sensors boast a longer range of 200 metres, making them the first auto-specific LiDAR sensors capable of handling different driving scenarios, Ford says. Ultra Puck will accelerate the development and validation of Ford's virtual driver software, which serves as the decision-making brain that directs vehicle systems.
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