Ford moves one step closer to bringing autonomous cars to the masses

Ford introduced its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous vehicles just a few years ago, and just last year – in December of 2015 – Ford finally obtained the permit to test its self-driving fleet on public roads in California starting in 2016. As we’re all aware, technology has a habit of evolving quickly, leaving technology from even a year ago somewhat outdated by comparison. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Ford has been busy upgrading its autonomous fleet and has finally announced what we can expect with its next-gen Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle shows up at CES and the Detroit Auto Show.

With the Fusion getting a facelift for the 2017 model year, the new autonomous development fleet will also get all the little nips and tucks. But, what’s more important is the updated autonomous technology that has been integrated into this generation of test vehicles. The new fleet will use the same Autonomous vehicle platform but gets a significant increase in processing power to go with some new computer hardware. Ford didn’t divulge how in-depth the aforementioned upgrades are, but the electrical controls are closer to being production ready while it has also made adjustments to sensor technology with sensors placed in optimal locations. As you’ll see in the comparison images below, these come in the form of roof sensors that look like luggage racks and the placement of new LIDAR sensors on the A-pillars – a feature that gives the system a wider range of view.

Ford claims that the new-gen vehicle evolves the two primary elements of an autonomous vehicle – the platform itself (sensors, cameras, hardware, etc.) and the virtual driver system. Ford’s hoping to have fully autonomous vehicles on the market sometime after the turn of the decade, and this new-gen autonomous Fusion is the next step in meeting that goal.

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Why it matters

Ford Begins Testing Autonomous Vehicles On California Roads
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Ford to Show up at CES and NAIAS with an Autonomous Surprise High Resolution Exterior
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It might not seem like much to us, aside from seeing the new autonomous vehicles on the road, there is little effect on us. But, the current system has already proven itself in snow, and a few months after that, they began testing at night. This updated technology should push things to the next level and put Ford exactly in the place it wants to be for the start of a new year and its journey toward bringing fully autonomous cars to the masses. But, there is one thing to keep in mind. Nobody wants an ugly car or one that has a bunch of various protrusions hanging off of it, so by the time the technology is perfected, the autonomous vehicles will looks so much like the cars we drive today that it will be hard to differentiate the two. Now that the heat has subsided a bit from all of the autonomous-related incidents of 2015 and 2016, how do you feel about the idea of self-driving cars now? Are you more for them, or are you still poised to say “no way?” Let us know in the comments section below.

Motor type 88 kW Permanent Magnet AC Synchronous Motor
Battery 1.4 kWh Lithium-Ion
Battery Peak Power 35 kW
Projected Electric Mode Top Speed 85 mph
Engine 2.0L Atkinson-Cycle I-4 Hybrid Engine
Horsepower 141 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 129 LB-FT @ 4,000 RPM
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 43/41/42

Press Release

Ford Motor Company is introducing its next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle, just in time for CES and the North American International Auto Show in January.

Ford to Show up at CES and NAIAS with an Autonomous Surprise High Resolution Exterior
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The new vehicle uses the current Ford autonomous vehicle platform, but ups the processing power with new computer hardware. Electrical controls are closer to production-ready, and adjustments to the sensor technology, including placement, allow the car to better see what’s around it. New LiDAR sensors have a sleeker design and more targeted field of vision, which enables the car to now use just two sensors rather than four, while still getting just as much data.

Ford to Show up at CES and NAIAS with an Autonomous Surprise High Resolution
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The new vehicle also evolves the two main elements to creating an autonomous vehicle – the autonomous vehicle platform, which is an upgraded version of the car itself, and the virtual driver system.

Ford to Show up at CES and NAIAS with an Autonomous Surprise High Resolution
- image 699469

The next-gen Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle follows the company’s current generation, which hit the streets three years ago.

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