Ford will begin testing self-driving cars in the District early next year and plans to launch commercially in Washington, Miami and other unnamed cities starting in 2021.
‘We’ll be working with local officials in Washington, D.C., to ensure that we test our self-driving vehicles in all eight of the district’s wards — and eventually operate business pilot programs in all eight wards as well — as we work toward deployment of a commercial service in 2021, said Sherif Marakby, president and chief executive of Ford Autonomous Vehicles.
Ford said local politician’s openness to driverless car was key to the decision to launch the first service there.
‘This technology holds the potential to change our world far beyond our nation’s capital, but D.C. is an ideal place to continue building the foundation for a great service — one that helps free up our roads, ease congestion and improve people’s access to the services they need.’
Current city law requires a backup safety driver in autonomous cars, though officials said they would work, in coordination with Ford, to update those and other rules.
Ford says it will run hundreds of vehicles in some cities, and more than a thousand in others, depending on demand.
Ford only recently set up the autonomous vehicle unit, Ford Autonomous Vehicles, Marakby heads up.
‘Ford has made tremendous progress across the self driving value chain – from technology development to business model innovation to user experience,’ said Jim Hackett, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company.
‘Now is the right time to consolidate our autonomous driving platform into one team to best position the business for the opportunities ahead.’
The unit is based at Ford’s Corktown campus in Detroit and will hold Ford’s ownership stake in Argo AI – its Pittsburgh-based partner for self-driving system development.
Ford said the $4 billion investment includes the $1 billion it announced in Argo AI last year.
Ford and BMW both plan to deploy self-driving cars in 2021.
Tesla has talked about creating a network of self-driving cars and Uber says it is sticking with a development effort despite an accident in which its self-driving car killed a woman in Arizona.
The No.1 U.S. automaker General Motors Co already has an autonomous vehicle unit, Cruise, which it acquired in 2016.
HOW DO SELF-DRIVING CARS ‘SEE’?
Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing ‘LiDAR’ units to recognise the world around them.
In LiDAR (light detection and ranging) scanning – which is used by Waymo – one or more lasers send out short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle.
These sensors constantly scan the surrounding areas looking for information, acting as the ‘eyes’ of the car.
While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time.
In November last year Apple revealed details of its driverless car system that uses lasers to detect pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.
The Apple researchers said they were able to get ‘highly encouraging results’ in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data.
They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR.
Other self-driving cars generally rely on a combination of cameras, sensors and lasers.
An example is Volvo’s self driving cars that rely on around 28 cameras, sensors and lasers.
A network of computers process information, which together with GPS, generates a real-time map of moving and stationary objects in the environment.
Twelve ultrasonic sensors around the car are used to identify objects close to the vehicle and support autonomous drive at low speeds.
A wave radar and camera placed on the windscreen reads traffic signs and the road’s curvature and can detect objects on the road such as other road users.
Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers also locate objects.
Two long-range radars on the bumper are used to detect fast-moving vehicles approaching from far behind, which is useful on motorways.
Four cameras – two on the wing mirrors, one on the grille and one on the rear bumper – monitor objects in close proximity to the vehicle and lane markings.