Ford has successfully tested a driverless car in the dark, using laser mapping technology instead of cameras to help it find the way.
Image from Ford - Computer graphics show LiDAR in action
Ford’s driverless car used LiDAR (light detection and ranging) 3D mapping technology, which sends out 2.8 million laser pulses a second to create a 3D map of the environment in real time.
Ford then fused this with additional data from radar to complete the full sensing capability of the autonomous vehicle. Other models have needed light to help cameras pick up road markings to help them orientate.
Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles, explained: ‘Thanks to LiDAR, the test cars aren’t reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt. In fact, LiDAR allows autonomous cars to drive just as well in the dark as they do in the light of day.’
In a statement Ford said: ‘While it’s ideal to have all three modes of sensors – radar, cameras and LiDAR – the latter can function independently on roads without stoplights.’
Ford also announced it will triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet – bringing the number to about 30 self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedans for testing on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan.