Self-driving cars aren’t all that smart when there’s been more than a dusting of snow, but wintery conditions won’t be a problem for Ford’s autonomous fleet.
Taking full advantage of the firm’s Michigan proving grounds, where there’s never a shortage of snowfall, Ford reckons it’s the first car maker to do dedicated winter testing with self-driving cars.
Slippy conditions aren’t the big problem – it’s snow obscuring the cameras and sensors, which normally spot road markings to position the car on the road. A few inches overnight could leave some self-driving cars snowblind by the morning.
Ford’s cars use LiDAR and 3D mapping instead, which don’t need to recognise road markings. Lasers scan the area around the car to create a 3D image, taking in buildings, landmarks and topography. This gets matched to a detailed 3D map to position the car on the road.
It looks like an effective system based on Ford’s video, but your car needs LiDAR antlers for it to work.
Ford’s self-driving tech is still years away, but in the meantime it’s been thinking how to keep human drivers safe. It’s working on a wearable program that will take the data from your smartwatch or fitness band to keep you safe.
Get a bad night’s sleep? Your car will know, and could wind down the windows or swap Radio 4 for Rammstein to keep you awake on a long drive.
If your heart rate starts spiking in traffic, the cruise control system could increase the distance between the cars in front to stop you getting full-blown road rage. It could make your wearable vibrate if it detects an obstruction, too, letting you know to take the wheel.
The work-in-progress system could eventually be a part of Ford Sync, the infotainment system that’s available as an option or as standard on practically every Ford car, truck and van. Sync is an open system, and already works with Android and iOS, so there are plenty of devices that could support it when Ford makes it a reality.
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