Automotive

Autonomous Ford uses LiDAR to navigate in the dark

Autonomous Ford uses LiDAR to ...
Ford's tests shows that LiDAR alone is enough for one of its autonomous research vehicles to drive itself in the dark
Ford's tests shows that LiDAR alone is enough for one of its autonomous research vehicles to drive itself in the dark
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Ford's tests shows that LiDAR alone is enough for one of its autonomous research vehicles to drive itself in the dark
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Ford's tests shows that LiDAR alone is enough for one of its autonomous research vehicles to drive itself in the dark
The car's LiDAR sensor shoots out 2.8 million infrared pulses a second
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The car's LiDAR sensor shoots out 2.8 million infrared pulses a second
The car was monitored by engineers with night-vision goggles
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The car was monitored by engineers with night-vision goggles
There was an operator in the driver's seat to take control of the vehicle if necessary
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There was an operator in the driver's seat to take control of the vehicle if necessary
For a car to navigate in the dark, Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps, with LiDAR pulses used to locate the car on the map in real time
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For a car to navigate in the dark, Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps, with LiDAR pulses used to locate the car on the map in real time

As well as using LiDAR for its autonomous vehicles to navigate in the snow, Ford is using the technology to do so in the dark. The carmaker has tested one of its Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicles at its Arizona Proving Ground in conditions too dark for a human driver to see where they were going.

Ford explains that, typically, the virtual driver software in its autonomous vehicles employs LiDAR along with radar and cameras in order to navigate. Despite this, the test shows that LiDAR alone is enough for a vehicle to navigate autonomously in the dark.

"Thanks to LiDAR, the test cars aren't reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt," says Ford's technical leader for autonomous vehicles Jim McBride. "In fact, LiDAR allows autonomous cars to drive just as well in the dark as they do in the light of day."

To achieve this, Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps, with LiDAR pulses used to locate a car on the map in real time. During the test, the Fusion was operated in what Ford describes as "pitch black," with its headlights switched off. The car was monitored by engineers with night-vision goggles and there was an operator in the driver's seat to take control of the vehicle if necessary.

For a car to navigate in the dark, Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps, with LiDAR pulses used to locate the car on the map in real time
For a car to navigate in the dark, Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps, with LiDAR pulses used to locate the car on the map in real time

"As I rode in the back seat, I was following the car's progression in real time using computer monitoring," explains research scientist and engineer Wayne Williams. "Sure enough, it stayed precisely on track along those winding roads."

The video below shows the Fusion driving autonomously in the dark, with some of the LiDAR's 2.8 million infrared pulses a second able to be seen.

Source: Ford

Project Nightonomy: Autonomous Vehicle Testing in the Dark | Fusion | Ford

5 comments
Stephen N Russell
Lisc for other auto makers alone to use, Must have for autonomous drive, lisc to Tesla.
Stephen N Russell
Lisc for other auto makers alone to use, Must have for autonomous drive, lisc to Tesla.
VoiceofReason
In normal cars, a cheap thin film display with an infrared and or thermal sensors for imaging overlay would save thousands of lives and millions of dollars. Cheap too.
Mel Tisdale
The video shows it well over the solid white line as it entered the "esses". If all cars were equipped with the same system, it would produce a nice pile of wreckage. They mention a 3D map that the system references. I hope that they are promoting the development of a universal map for all autonomous vehicles to reference. It needs to be updated in real-time 24/7 showing all road works, blockages, accidents etc. etc.. It goes without saying that sat-nav systems should also use the same map and to heck with the rip-off map updates that make current systems next to useless after too short a time.
Bob Flint
That's fine for a deserted desert road, nobody or anything else around, wouldn't it be messed up by an oncoming car's headlights?, dust, flies, fog, mist, rainfall, and dreaded snow...