Ford is one of several automotive concerns that work on autonomous vehicle technology. However, before these vehicles hit the showrooms, they must do the same in all driving conditions. So the American company started testing its snow-covered prototype based on the Fusion model.
Autonomous vehicles are likely to be the future of motoring, but before they start caring for us, it will take a few years of research and technological development to address the safety of passengers. Computer control systems for the operation of these vehicles have to deal with all road conditions. Meanwhile, companies working on self-driving cars, including Google, have not yet been tested to test them in winter when roads are covered with thick snow.
The first step in this direction was made by Ford, who has just started testing his own prototype in the snow. Jim McBride, the company’s chief technology officer, told the media that about 70% of US residents live in areas where winter roads are covered with snow. The tests will show how autonomous vehicles can cope in such unusual conditions.
Driving in snow is much more difficult as vehicles are not able to track horizontal lines, and traffic signs are often obscured by white fluff. The test model, therefore, uses LiDAR and accurate three-dimensional maps created in collaboration with Michigan University engineers to keep the computer geared to the ground and remain on the road even when it is overwhelmed. LiDAR is basically the only system on which the car is subject to such conditions, since the suitability of other systems, ie sensors and cameras, is severely limited by falling snow.