DEARBORN, Mich.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Driving in snow can be a slippery challenge, with the potential for one
blizzardy gust to white-out your field of view – a situation faced by
the majority of people in the United States. So if self-driving cars are
to become a reality – and they almost certainly will – they must be able
to navigate snow-covered roads. In its quest to bring self-driving
vehicles to millions of people around the world, Ford reveals six facts
about its technology that
allows for a car to drive itself in snow.
Mapping the way: Ford first creates high-resolution 3D maps using
LiDAR technology to scan the area its autonomous vehicle will later
drive in the snow.
To operate in snow, Ford Fusion Hybrid
autonomous vehicles first need to scan the environment to create
high-resolution 3D digital maps. By driving the test route in ideal
weather, the Ford autonomous vehicle creates highly accurate digital
models of the road and surrounding infrastructure using four LiDAR
scanners that generate a total of 2.8 million laser points a second.
The resulting map then serves as a baseline that’s used to identify
the car’s position when driving in autonomous mode. Using the LiDAR
sensors to scan the environment in real time, the car can locate
itself within the mapped area later, when the road is covered in snow.
Better have an unlimited data plan: Ford’s autonomous vehicles
collect and process significantly more mapping data in an hour than
the average person uses in mobile-phone data in 10 years.
mapping their environment, Ford autonomous vehicles collect and
process a diverse set of data about the road and surrounding landmarks
– signs, buildings, trees and other features. All told, the car
collects up to 600 gigabytes per hour, which it uses to create a
high-resolution 3D map of the landscape. In the United States, the
average subscriber of a cellular data plan uses about 21.6 gigabytes
per year, for a 10-year total of 216 gigabytes.
Super smart sensors: Ford uses LiDAR sensors that are so powerful,
they can even identify falling snowflakes and raindrops.
autonomous vehicles generate so many laser points from the LiDAR
sensors that some can even bounce off falling snowflakes or raindrops,
returning the false impression that there’s an object in the way. Of
course, there’s no need to steer around precipitation, so Ford –
working with University of Michigan researchers – created an algorithm
that recognizes snow and rain, filtering them out of the car’s vision
so it can continue along its path.
Not your average navigation: The way Ford’s autonomous vehicles
identify their location is more accurate than GPS.
think about vehicle navigation, GPS usually comes to mind. But where
current GPS is accurate to just more than 10 yards, autonomous
operation requires precise vehicle location. By scanning their
environment for landmarks, then comparing that information to the 3D
digital maps stored in their databanks, Ford’s autonomous vehicles can
precisely locate themselves to within a centimeter.
No need for glasses: Sensor fusion – the combination of data from
multiple sensors – plus smart monitoring of sensor health help keep
Ford’s autonomous vehicles out of the blind.
In addition to
LiDAR sensors, Ford uses cameras and radar to monitor the environment
around the vehicle, with the data generated from all of those sensors
fused together in a process known as sensor fusion. This process
results in robust 360-degree situational awareness. Sensor fusion
means that one inactive sensor – perhaps caused by ice, snow, grime or
debris buildup on a sensor lens – does not necessarily hinder
autonomous driving. Still, Ford autonomous vehicles monitor all LiDAR,
camera and radar systems to identify the deterioration of sensor
performance, which helps keep sensors in ideal working order.
Eventually, the cars might be able to handle ice and grime buildup
themselves through self-cleaning or defogging measures.
Look Mom, no hands: The first person behind the wheel of a
demonstrated autonomy test in snow is an astrophysics major who never
dreamed he’d be in a self-driving car.
Before Wayne Williams
joined Ford’s autonomy team, he worked on remote sensing technology on
behalf of the federal government. A self-described “geek,” Williams
was intrigued by autonomous vehicles. But he never envisioned one day
being part of a team working to bring them to reality – let alone
being behind the wheel of the auto industry’s first publicly
demonstrated autonomous snow test. The mood in the car that day was
all business, he recalls, with a coworker monitoring the computing
system from the back seat. “Because of the extensive development work,
we were confident the car would do exactly what we asked of it,” says
Williams. “But it wasn’t until after the test that the achievement
began to sink in.”
Ford is the first automaker to publicly demonstrate autonomous vehicle
operation in the snow. The
company’s winter weather road testing takes place in Michigan,
including at Mcity – a 32-acre, real-world driving environment at the
University of Michigan. Ford’s testing on this full-scale simulated
urban campus is aimed at supporting the company’s mission to learn about
and advance the emerging field of autonomous driving.
About Ford Motor Company
Motor Company is a global automotive and mobility company
based in Dearborn, Michigan. With about 199,000 employees and 67 plants
worldwide, the company’s core business includes designing,
manufacturing, marketing, financing and servicing a full line of Ford
cars, trucks, SUVs and electrified vehicles, as well as Lincoln luxury
vehicles. At the same time, Ford is aggressively pursuing emerging
opportunities through Ford Smart Mobility, the company’s plan to be a
leader in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer
experience, and data and analytics. For more information regarding Ford,
its products worldwide or Ford Motor Credit Company, visit www.corporate.ford.com.
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video, visit www.media.ford.com.
Ford Motor Company