Three years ago, the automaker introduced its first-generation autonomous car with four prominent sensors mounted on the roof. Although the new vehicle sits on the same platform, it looks a bit sleeker since it now features just two LiDAR sensors instead of four. These sensors, located on the front pillars, receive the same amount of total data as before, and are about as large as a hockey puck.
Ford says that adjustments to the placement of the two sensors have allowed the car to better see its environment. In fact, they can now see about the length of two football fields in every direction. The LiDAR sensors, and a suite of short- and long-range radar sensors, complement three cameras discreetly mounted on the two roof racks, as well as a forward-facing camera hidden under the windshield. Then there’s the “autonomous vehicle brain” located in the trunk, computing the data. Ford says the computers generate 1 terabyte of data every hour, more than a typical person would use in phone data over the course of 45 years.
Earlier this year, Ford promised to offer fully autonomous vehicles in high volumes by 2021. These cars, designed for ride sharing services, won’t include pedals or a steering wheel. Ford doesn’t envision the technology rolling out to individual customers until several years after 2021 due to high costs.
The electrical controls on the Fusion Hybrid are close to production-ready, the automaker says. Ford’s new autonomous test car will debut at CES January 3 before heading to the Detroit auto show the following week.