Earlier this afternoon Ford, in a partnership with the University of Michigan and State Farm, introduced the third generation of a 10 year project. The Automated Ford Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle features all of Ford’s latest driver assistance technologies and combines with a LIDAR system to create a fully automated driving experience. The vehicle is a research platform in which further driver technologies will be developed.
Ford’s head of global product development, Raj Nair, emphasized that this Fusion is different from automated vehicle projects from companies like Google. “If you had visions of sending your kids off to school, while you go inside for another cup of coffee, that’s not what we are talking about for near-term mobility,” states Nair. Ford does not intended its automated technology to be used without a human being in the vehicle.
The automated Fusion is the culmination of ten years of collaboration with the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering. They believe that automated driving technologies will allow for safer transportation with fewer accidents, as well as more efficient transportation. A vehicle that can operate without distraction and communicate with other vehicles on the road should help reduce the rapidly-growing traffic congestion problem.
Ford also took the opportunity to show attendees what the LIDAR camera sees. The system that Ford utilizes uses both image-cameras and the LIDAR to create a composite image of the surroundings. This composite image creates much more detailed mapping, and allows the computer to better understand what is around it.
This is a research vehicle, meaning that it will not be on sale anytime in the near future. However, Ford is actively working on driver-assistance technologies that are available now, as well as some introduced in the near future. Mr. Nair mentioned that in addition to automatic parallel parking, perpendicular parking will be available sometime in 2014.