LiDAR sensors on Ford research vehicles can see in the dark

Ford has been testing its Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle in complete darkness with no headlights to further develop its LiDAR sensor technology.

The research has been performed on lonely desert roads in Arizona as Ford takes the next step to creating fully autonomous vehicles.

The tests have been a success and have proved that Ford’s LiDAR technology and 3D maps work in partnership and allow the Fusion Hybrid vehicle to drive in the dark without headlights on.

The self-driving car has three sensors – radar, cameras and LiDAR – but these latest experiments prove the LiDAR technology can perform on its own.

Although the new Fusion Hybrid car is not yet ready to be sold in Ford dealers in Somerset and across the rest of the UK, these latest tests demonstrate that the new car is a step closer to being sold across the globe.

Speaking to the Ford Motor Company Media Center, Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles, added, “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.”

Driving in the dark

To be able to drive safely in the dark, the self-driving cars use high-resolution 3D maps, which contain a range of information from the geography of the area to landmarks and road markings, and LiDAR sensors to detail where the car is on the map.

During the night-time tests, Ford engineers were armed with night-vision goggles so they were able to see LiDAR’s infrared laser beams coming from the self-driving cars.

Following the latest successful tests on Ford’s self-driving cars, the manufacturer has announced plans to triple its autonomous vehicle test fleet to around 30. These vehicles will be further tested in Arizona, California and Michigan, and if these tests are also successful, the release of the self-driving Ford Fusion Hybrid cars could just be around the corner.

Check out the below video to see Ford’s autonomous vehicle testing in the dark.

Image Credit: mariordo59 (flickr.com)