Ford has become the first automaker to test autonomous vehicles at Mcity, a full-scale simulated real-world urban environment at the University of Michigan.
The 32-acre facility is part of the university’s Mobility Transformation Center.
“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.”
Ford has been testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years and is now expanding testing on the diversity of roads and realistic neighborhoods of Mcity near the North Campus Research Complex to accelerate research of advanced sensing technologies.
Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle merges today’s driver-assist technologies, such as front-facing cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors, and adds four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment – essential for dynamic performance.
Real-world testing in a whole new way
Mcity opened in July. The full-scale urban environment provides real-world road scenarios – such as running a red light – that can’t be replicated on public roads. Click here to see the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle testing at Mcity.
There are street lights, crosswalks, lane delineators, curb cuts, bike lanes, trees, hydrants, sidewalks, signs, traffic control devices – even construction barriers. Here, Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle is tested over a range of surfaces – concrete, asphalt, simulated brick and dirt – and maneuvers two-, three- and four-lane roads, as well as ramps, roundabouts and tunnels.
“The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor. Every mile driven there can represent 10, 100 or 1,000 miles of on-road driving in terms of our ability to pack in the occurrences of difficult events,” said Ryan Eustice, University of Michigan associate professor and principal investigator in Ford’s research collaboration with the university.
Ford’s track record of technology leadership
Ford revealed its Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle with University of Michigan and State Farm Insurance in 2013 in an effort to advance sensing systems so these technologies could be integrated into Ford’s next-generation vehicles. Earlier this year, Ford announced it moved its research efforts in autonomous vehicle technology to the next step in development, to the advanced engineering phase. The team is working to make sensing and computing technologies feasible for production while continuing to test and refine algorithms.
Ford offers a full portfolio of semi-autonomous technology and the most available driver-assist features in four vehicle segments in the United States – large light-duty pickups with F-150, midsize SUVs with Edge and Explorer, midsize cars with Fusion and large cars with Taurus.
Along with testing at Mcity and on public roads, Ford’s autonomous fleet has been put through the paces at the company’s vehicle development facilities in Dearborn and Romeo, Michigan.
“We are pleased to welcome Ford as the first automaker to use Mcity to test autonomous vehicles,” said Peter Sweatman, director, Mobility Transformation Center. “Mcity offers a unique, real-world test environment that will help Ford accelerate development of its autonomous technology while building on its existing research collaboration with University of Michigan.”
Changing the way the world moves: Ford Smart Mobility
Autonomous vehicles are one element of Ford Smart Mobility, Ford’s plan to deliver the next level in connectivity, mobility, autonomous vehicles, the customer experience and big data.
With Ford Smart Mobility, the company is once again changing the way the world moves to make people’s lives better – using innovation and advanced technology across its business to address the world’s biggest transportation challenges. This is what Henry Ford did 112 years ago.
Jaguar charges South Africa
Jaguar, in partnership with electric vehicle charging authority GridCars, has laid the foundation for the future of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in South Africa with 82 new public charging stations in the country’s major hubs and along frequently-travelled holiday routes.
The R30-million infrastructure investment will make day-to-day travel, as well as longer day trips and even very long journeys possible for owners of electric vehicles, such as the soon to be introduced Jaguar I-PACE. With a range of up to 470km depending on driving style and conditions on a single charge, an I-PACE will comfortably fit into most drivers’ lifestyles, whether it’s commuting to and from work on a daily basis, or travelling the long distances required for inter-city holiday destinations.
In addition to the publicly available charging stations to be installed in customer parking areas at every Jaguar Land Rover retailer in South Africa, a total of 30 public charging stations will be erected at various points of convenience, such as shopping centres, in the country’s major hubs including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Bloemfontein.
South Africa’s city centres will now also be connected by the Jaguar Powerway – a series of 22 charging stations along the N3 between Gauteng and Durban and the N1 between Gauteng and Cape Town. Cape Town will also be connected to the Garden Route with a series of charging stations along the N2 all the way to East London.
Richard Gouverneur, Managing Director of Jaguar Land Rover South Africa and sub-Sahara Africa said:“As Jaguar we are proud to be setting the pace for the new generation of electric vehicles in South Africa. The launch of the Jaguar Powerway demonstrates our commitment to electrification technology and the future of mobility in our market. This new network provides peace of mind to our Jaguar I-PACE customers who can now experience more of their world with less range restrictions.”
The majority of charging stations on the public network will be 60kWh fast chargers, meaning 100km of range will take around 20 minutes for Jaguar I-PACE owners. A charge from 0 to 80% will take around 72 minutes.
Every charging station will also be equipped with a 22kWh AC fast charger to accommodate plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). The AC standard Type 2 socket will allow charging of all EVs currently available in South Africa. The DC charger is fitted with the CCS DC type socket used by the vast majority of EVs in SA.
Jaguar Land Rover owners will use an RFID card to activate the charging station and manage electricity billing to the card. Cards can be credited with simple EFT payments, much like cellphone airtime top-ups. Charging station electricity rates will also be discounted by 25% for all Jaguar Land Rover EV or PHEV owners.
Like petrol, the price of electricity fluctuates, but for now the rate for 1kWh on the card will be between R3 and R3.50 depending where in South Africa it’s redeemed. With a 90kWh battery, a full recharge in an I-PACE will cost between R270 and R315 – a fraction of the fueling costs of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
The entire Jaguar charging grid and Powerway is expected to be operational by the end of November, 2018. The Jaguar I-PACE will be available in South Africa in the first quarter of 2019.
Merc challenges students to pitch digital innovation
Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has partnered with the LaunchLab to offer a pitching opportunity to students and professionals in South Africa.
The Mercedes-Benz South Africa Ideas Challenge will target interested students and professionals to pitch their innovative ideas around a set of challenges, tailor-made to advance manufacturing as well as relevant industry topics, as identified by Mercedes-Benz South Africa. The challenge spans various focus areas – ranging from big data and machine learning for manufacturing, the digitisation of logistics and production, machine learning, Industry 4.0 and many more.
The two partners are well-matched to create this unique opportunity for innovative South African talent.
Mercedes-Benz South Africa has a proud history and heritage in South Africa spanning more than six decades. Being part of the global Daimler network, a company with a track record in innovation and pioneering spirit of over a century, will offer the successful participants access to expert input and guidance.
The LaunchLab, a cutting edge, mixed-use business incubator based at Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, will facilitate the challenge which will run from August to November 2018. LaunchLab’s mission is to facilitate valuable connections between strategic partners and startups in order for Africa to develop into an entrepreneurial ecosystem that accelerates entrepreneurs to a new level.
The Ideas Programme is intended primarily for students and young professionals to validate their innovative ideas and concepts in the manufacturing environment. At the end of the process successful participants from the students and professionals, stand the chance to win various prizes and if selected have the opportunity to work on a proof of concept with Mercedes- Benz South Africa.
To book for this information seminar, visit https://launchlab.co.za/ideas2
Submission requirements: Participants should submit an entry form with a 3-minute video explaining their business idea on the LaunchLab website:
The deadline for submissions is 28 September 2018, thereafter, a shortlist of candidates will participate in an ideas bootcamp to further refine and validate their ideas. A group of finalists will then be selected and will then in November have the opportunity to present their ideas to Mercedes-Benz South Africa decision makers.
LaunchLab’s terms and conditions apply, and are available for download here:
“MBSA has partnered with the LaunchLab as part of our continuing efforts to contribute to youth development, the economic growth and sustainability of the country as a whole. The areas that the challenge is focusing on are key to our continued growth and success as we operate in a highly competitive space,” says Andreas Engling, CEO and Executive Director Manufacturing, Mercedes-Benz South Africa.
“The LaunchLab is very excited to have joined hands once again with Mercedes-Benz South Africa on the Ideas Challenge. This is another example of a well-known multinational company seeing the value of engaging with the start-up ecosystem and we are very pleased to be able to facilitate the interaction between these two groups to leverage the strengths of both, for mutual benefit. This is an awesome opportunity for our local entrepreneurs,” says Philip Marais, CEO of the LaunchLab.
Throughout the challenge, progress and news will be shared online and on social media platforms, using the hashtag #LLIdeas2018.