Ford is pushing hard on the pedal of its self-driving cars and begins testing the autonomous technologies on snow-covered roads.
Ford has been very busy lately with its autonomous targets, revealing all sorts of self-driving related plans. Beginning with this year, about 30 fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans are taking to the California’s streets after receiving driving permits to conduct such tests on state’s public roads. All major automakers and technology companies have tested autonomous vehicle technology only in dry, mostly sunny climates, but the upcoming self-driving cars will not ride only on ideal conditions. They have to be trusted on all type of roads. Therefore, Ford is now announcing it has begun tests in snow-covered environments. “It’s one thing for a car to drive itself in perfect weather,” said Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles. “It’s quite another to do so when the car’s sensors can’t see the road because it’s covered in snow.”
The company believes fully autonomous driving can’t rely only on GPS, which is accurate only to several yards – not enough to localize or identify the exact position of the vehicle. Ford said a week ago it would begin using a new, lower cost LiDAR sensor made by California-based Velodyne, which acts as the eyes of a self-driving car. But on snow-covered roads or in high-density traffic, LiDAR and other sensors such as cameras can’t see the road. This is also the case when the sensor lens is covered by snow, grime or debris. So, to navigate through snowy roads, the Fusion Hybrid sedans are equipped with high-resolution 3D maps, complete with information about the road and what’s above it, including road markings, signs, geography, landmarks and topography.