Ford has been using for quite some time its Fusion Hybrid as the basis for its autonomous testing platform – and even shared it with other companies, such as Uber – so it has amassed enough experience to move to a next generation version.
The Blue Oval has recently debuted online the next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle, set to debut in front of the worldwide audience in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and then at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The new vehicle uses the same vehicle platform, as the Fusion Hybrid hasn’t received any update recently, but comes with new computer hardware. In addition, the electrical controls are a step closer to production-ready – while the sensors have been updated (including in terms of placement) to offer a better view around the car. The new LiDAR sensors have a different – sleeker – design and an enhanced field of vision, with the company dropping to just two instead of four without compromising data acquirement.
The next-gen Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle still uses the company’s current generation model, which was introduced to the streets three years ago but evolves the entire autonomous platform and also the virtual driver system. Ford is looking to deliver a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle by 2021, for use in conjunction with a ride-sharing company (presumably Uber, as they have been using the Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle with their own self-driving hardware). According to Chris Brewer, chief program engineer, Ford Autonomous Vehicle Development, the need to develop a robust virtual driver system with the same level of dependability to make decisions as a human has lead to a unique approach – and autonomous cars will “see, sense, think and perform like a human in fact, better, in some cases.”