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Ford starts up self-driving vehicles at Mcity

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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.

Cars

Why sports cars make us feel good

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Forget romance, fine dining or an epic boxset binge – new preliminary research reveals that driving a sports car on a daily basis is among the best ways to boost your sense of wellbeing and emotional fulfilment.

The study measured “buzz moments” – peak thrills that play a vital role in our overall wellness – as volunteers cheered on their favourite football team, watched a gripping Game of Thrones episode, enjoyed a passionate kiss with a loved one or took an intense salsa dancing class. Only the occasional highs of riding a roller coaster ranked higher than the daily buzz of a commute in a sports car.

Working with neuroscientists and designers, Ford brought the research to life with the unique Ford Performance Buzz Car: a customised Ford Focus RS incorporating wearable and artificial intelligence technology to animate the driver’s emotions in real time across the car’s exterior. 

Watch the video here https://youtu.be/AFpt6jziFsU

“A roller coaster may be good for a quick thrill, but it’s not great for getting you to work every day,” said Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology. “This study shows how driving a performance car does much more than get you from A to B – it could be a valuable part of your daily wellbeing routine.”

Study participants who sat behind the wheel of a Ford Focus RS, Focus ST or Mustang experienced an average of 2.1 high-intensity buzz moments during a typical commute; this compared with an average of 3 buzz moments while riding on a roller coaster, 1.7 while on a shopping trip, 1.5 each while watching a Game of Thrones episode or a football match, and none at all while salsa dancing, fine dining or sharing a passionate kiss. 

For the research, Ford took one Focus RS and worked with Designworks to create the Buzz Car:

From concept, design and installation to software development and programming, the Buzz Car took 1,400 man-hours to create. Each “buzz moment” experienced by the driver – analysed using a real-time “emotional AI” system developed by leading empathic technology firm Sensum – produces a dazzling animation across almost 200,000 LED lights integrated into the car. The Buzz Car also features:

  • High-performance Zotac VR GO gaming PC
  • 110 x 500-lumen daylight-bright light strips
  • 82 display panels with 188,416 individually addressable LEDs

Driver state research

Researchers at the Ford Research and Innovation Center in Aachen, Germany are already looking into how vehicles can better understand and respond to drivers’ emotions. As part of the EUfunded ADAS&ME project, Ford experts are investigating how in-car systems may one day be aware of our emotions – as well as levels of stress, distraction and fatigue – providing prompts and warnings, and could even take control of the car in emergency situations.

“We think driving should be an enjoyable, emotional experience,” said Dr Marcel Mathissen, research scientist at Ford of Europe. “The driver-state research Ford and its partners are undertaking is helping to lead us towards safer roads and – importantly – healthier driving.”

Activity Buzz Moments *
Roller Coaster 3
Driving 2.1
Shopping 1.7
Game of Thrones 1.5
Football Game 1.5
Kissing 0
Salsa Dancing 0
Dining 0

* Average number of high-intensity buzz moments per participant

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Car that sees round corners

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Jaguar Land Rover is leading a £4.7 million (approximately R79 million) project to develop self-driving cars that can ‘see’ at blind junctions and through obstacles.

Britain’s biggest carmaker is leading a project called AutopleX to combine connected, automated and live mapping tech so more information is provided earlier to the self-driving car. This enables automated cars to communicate with all road users and obstacles where there is no direct view, effectively helping them see, so they can safely merge lanes and negotiate complex roundabouts autonomously.

Chris Holmes, Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover said: “This project is crucial in order to bring self-driving cars to our customers in the near future. Together with our AutopleX partners, we will merge our connected and autonomous research to empower our self-driving vehicles to operate safely in the most challenging, real-world traffic situations. This project will ensure we deliver the most sophisticated and capable automated driving technology.”

Jaguar Land Rover is developing fully- and semi-automated vehicle technologies, offering customers a choice of an engaged or automated drive, while maintaining an enjoyable and safe driving experience. The company’s vision is to make the self-driving car viable in the widest range of real-life, on- and off-road driving environments and weather.

AutopleX will develop the technology through simulation and public road testing both on motorways and in urban environments in the West Midlands. Highways England, INRIX, Ricardo, Siemens, Transport for West Midlands and WMG at the University of Warwick join the AutopleX consortium, which was announced as part of Innovate UK’s third round of Connected and Autonomous Vehicle Funding in March 2018.

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