Ford will start testing its autonomous vehicle in a simulated city designed to mimic real-world driving scenarios to accelerate development of driverless cars.
The American car-maker’s Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle equipped with cameras, radar and lidar sensors and real-time 3D mapping technology, will be the first autonomous car to take advantage of the Mcity, the University of Michigan’s simulated urban environment.
Opened in July this year, the unique testbed, the first of its kind in the world, provides 32 acres (13 hectares) of roads and simulated neighbourhoods for the researchers to put the autonomous technology through its paces.
“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president for global product development. “This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.”
With its street lights, pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes, sidewalks and traffic lights, Mcity enables the researchers to simulate multiple events in the same run, thus speeding up the research compared to a real environment.
“The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor,” said Ryan Eustice, University of Michigan associate professor and principal investigator in Ford’s research collaboration. “Every mile driven there can represent 10, 100 or 1,000 miles of on-road driving in terms of our ability to pack in the occurrences of difficult events.”
The roads of the simulated city are covered with a range of surfaces including concrete, asphalt and dirt. It features two and three-lane roads, several ramps and roundabouts and even tunnels and construction barriers.
Ford has been developing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years. In 2013, the firm revealed the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle, designed to advance sensing systems so these technologies could be integrated into Ford’s next-generation vehicles.
Earlier this year, Ford announced it moved its research efforts in autonomous vehicle technology to the next step in development, to the advanced engineering phase. The team is working to make sensing and computing technologies feasible for production while continuing to test and refine algorithms.
Below is a video showing Ford's autonomous vehicle fleet in Mcity: