Ford Motor Company has announced plans to triple the size of its autonomous vehicle testing fleet, from 10 vehicles to 30, while continuing to use the Fusion Hybrid mid-size sedan as a basis.
This news comes on the heels of an announcement that the automaker had secured a permit to begin testing autonomous vehicles on public roads in California. Already, self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrids have taken to the streets of Michigan, in addition to testing at Ford’s proving grounds, and the University of Michigan’s 32-acre MCity simulated urban environment. The 20 new autonomous vehicles being added to Ford’s fleet will use the latest LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) sensors available from supplier Velodyne, named “Solid-State Hybrid Ultra Puck.”
According to Ford Technical Leader for Autonomous Vehicles Jim McBride, Velodyne’s new Ultra Puck is smaller and more affordable than previous iterations of the LIDAR sensor. That’s on top of offering a longer range of 200 meters, and a more targeted field-of-view. Because of this, Ford will be able to reduce the number of LIDAR sensors on its new third-generation autonomous vehicle development platform, from four to two.
“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,” says Ford Executive VP of Global Product Development Raj Nair. “With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter.”
Ford Motor Company last summer officially shifted from the research phase of its autonomous vehicle program to the advanced engineering phase.