A self-driving Ford Fusion test vehicle on the streets of Mcity, the University of Michigan's autonomous driving test facility. Atop the Ford Fusion are LiDAR ranging lasers from Velodyne.
Ford also signed an exclusive licensing agreement with German-based Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company founded by neuroscientist Dr. Sheila Nirenberg. The partnership will offer Ford machine vision for its autonomous vehicle virtual driver system.
Unlike LiDAR, which bounces a laser off objects like a radar uses sound to determine distances, Nirenberg Neuroscience's technology perceives objects in the same way as a human eye -- by detecting the natural light that reflects off them. Nirenberg's technology then uses the same neural code the eye uses to transmit visual information to the brain, but transmits it to a vehicle's virtual driving system.
Nirenberg's machine vision platform can be used for navigation, object recognition, facial recognition and other functions, the company said.
Nirenberg's technology is also being used by Dr. Nirenberg to develop a device for restoring sight to patients with degenerative diseases of the retina.
The technology Ford is gaining through its new partnerships will not only be used for future fully-autonomous fleet, but also toward improving ADAS in personally-owned vehicles.
Consumer vehicles will continue to advance
Ford will focus on improving SAE levels 1 and 2 in its current fleet, Visintainer said.
"There's some opportunity to share sensors and share learning across the two chains. We have an equal focus on both fronts," he said.
For example, parallel parking assist (which Ford introduced in 2009) currently requires a driver to control both shifting and braking as the car parks itself. In the future, Ford's ADAS will take over all parallel parking functions.
Another feature that will continue to evolve is the Ford Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which was introduced this year in F-150 models. The Backup Assist works by letting a driver steer the trailer with a control knob while the truck steers its wheels and limits vehicle speed.
Ford also plans to roll out Traffic Jam Assist, which will enable cars to automatically keep pace with traffic flow through sensors from its active park assist, automatic lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control technology.
"It still requires the driver to be engaged, but it helps take the stress away," Visintainer said.
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