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Ford Autonomous Driving In Winter...

22 April 2016, 12:02 PM

The key players in the Automotive & Technology world are locked in an intense race towards launching the first ever self-driving car. They reckon, that these self-driving cars are way safer a solution, driving better than you & I; ergo, they must take over the world. Getting into the merits of that aspect would be an exercise tinted by blatant bias, so let’s focus on something more positive instead. Like, reports of Ford indulging in some autonomous driving tests in winter.

So far, development on autonomous cars was being carried out in the summer, where the temperatures & conditions were more conducive towards outdoor testing. However, with winter well & truly starting to get underway late last year, the maker of Ford Cars hit upon a brilliant idea – Winter Testing!

In one clean sweep, Ford figured they could put the pedal down on their autonomous car program & also put traditional downtime to productive use. Until recently, the sensors and other, scanning tech that is vital to the safe functioning of driverless cars would struggle to work satisfactorily in the snow. They would have trouble identifying road signs, lane markings, pedestrians and other, fellow motorists.

With the recent program of Ford autonomous driving in winter, the car manufacturer has stolen the first mover advantage in its march towards driver-less cars. The University of Michigan runs a special testing facility. The 32-acre facility allows one to run simulations representing real-world driving conditions, in a safe & controlled manner. MCity as it is popularly called, became Ford’s proving grounds over the winter, as they took to furthering the development on their self-driving cars programme there. Till then, all the winter testing had been more with individual sensors and stand-alone systems. By moving to a full-driving programme, the auto giant is placed in an enviable position of pulling away in the lead, ahead of the rest of the auto-manufacturers.

In typical Ford Cars fashion, the manufacturer took on this testing challenge in an innovative fashion. Rather than relying on existing mapping data, they created their own, custom 3D maps for the testing period. Incorporating fresh sets of data and mapping those along the framework helped their self-driving cars to work their way around varying terrain & topography, easily identifying road signs & popular landmarks.

The only other firm that seems to be matching Ford’s advanced pace is tech-giant, Google. It is the only firm with more cars under testing, than Ford, though the latter is working furiously to narrow the gap in this year. There have also been stray reports of the two firms putting their combined resources in the field of self-driving cars to use, but nothing concrete has come up yet.

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