Recently, under the cover of night, a Ford Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle with no headlights on navigated along lonely desert roads, performing a task that would be perilous for a human driver.
Driving in pitch black at Ford Arizona Proving Ground marks the next step on the company’s journey to delivering fully autonomous vehicles to customers around the globe. It’s an important development, in that it shows that even without cameras, which rely on light, Ford’s LiDAR – working with the car’s virtual driver software – is robust enough to steer flawlessly around winding roads. While it’s ideal to have all three modes of sensors – radar, cameras and LiDAR – the latter can function independently on roads without stoplights.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data has found the passenger vehicle occupant fatality rate during dark hours to be about three times higher than the daytime rate.
“Thanks to LiDAR, the test cars aren’t reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt,” says Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles. “In fact, LiDAR allows autonomous cars to drive just as well in the dark as they do in the light of day.”
To navigate in the dark, Ford self-driving cars use high-resolution 3D maps – complete with information about the road, road markings, geography, topography and landmarks like signs, buildings and trees. The vehicle uses LiDAR pulses to pinpoint itself on the map in real time. Additional data from radar gets fused with that of LiDAR to complete the full sensing capability of the autonomous vehicle.
For the desert test, Ford engineers, sporting night-vision goggles, monitored the Fusion from inside and outside the vehicle. Night vision allowed them to see the LiDAR doing its job in the form of a grid of infrared laser beams projected around the vehicle as it drove past. LiDAR sensors shoot out 2.8 million laser pulses a second to precisely scan the surrounding environment.
“Inside the car, I could feel it moving, but when I looked out the window, I only saw darkness,” describes Wayne Williams, a Ford research scientist and engineer. “As I rode in the back seat, I was following the car’s progression in real time using computer monitoring. Sure enough, it stayed precisely on track along those winding roads.”
After more than a decade of Ford autonomous vehicle research, the company is dedicated to achieving fully autonomous driving capability, which, as defined by SAE International Level 4, does not require the driver to intervene and take control of the vehicle.
This year, Ford 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.
Car tech rules CES Asia
More than 60 automotive brands will highlight their latest innovations at the Asia edition of CES in Shanghai in June.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has revealed that vehicle technology show floor space at CES Asia 2019 will double in size and showcase technology advances which make cars safer and more connected.
More than 60 global auto brands including Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan will feature their latest innovations in vehicle technology across two major indoor exhibit halls, the event’s largest-ever vehicle tech footprint. CES Asia attendees will experience the latest concept cars and connected vehicles from self-driving to all-electric, making transportation safer and greener. CES Asia will run from 11 to 13 June 2019 at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre Center (SNIEC) in Shanghai, China.
CES Asia show director John T. Kelley said: “Today, every company is a tech company. Traditional automotive manufacturers are joining vehicle tech newcomers to exhibit at CES Asia, the perfect platform that brings together different industries to showcase their latest technologies in self-driving, clean energy and smart navigation features. CES Asia uniquely challenges the traditional auto shows in targeting the world’s largest auto market – China.”
German auto giant Volkswagen will join forces with Beijing-based Mobvoi for their CES Asia debut showcasing the latest development of AI coming to Volkswagen’s future cars. Inceptio Technology is another first-time exhibitor to demonstrate next generation self-driving technologies for trucks and transportation services. Other first-time exhibitors include Denso, FAW Hongqi, Great Wall Motor, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, Hyundai Mobis, and Polestar. 3M, Bose, Continental, NIRA Dynamics AB, OnStar, Opus Microsystems, Smart Eye AB and United Automotive Electronic Systems are just a few of the notable exhibitors returning to the automotive show floor at CES Asia 2019.
CES Asia 2019 will focus on AI, 5G, Vehicle Tech, and startups from around the world. The show is expected to feature 550+ exhibiting companies, including more than 125 startups and represents the full technology ecosystem with innovations spanning 20 product categories. For the fourth year in a row, the United States Department of Commerce (USDOC) has granted Trade Fair Certification for CES Asia 2019, a formal federal endorsement of CES Asia as a recognized opportunity to showcase U.S. products and services overseas.
Visit CESAsia.com to register now and find more event details. WeChat registration for CES Asia 2019 is also available now. Follow us on WeChat (ID: CESAsia_II) to register.
How cars can stop flu
The car of the future could help win the battle against superbugs – according to Jaguar Land Rover. Future models could help stop the spread of colds and flu thanks to innovative ultraviolet light technology (UV-C) borrowed from the medical industry, where it has been used for more than 70 years.
By integrating UV-C, Jaguar Land Rover believes it could help to stop bacteria and harmful viruses, known as pathogens, from surviving in the cabin. UV-C is currently widely used for disinfecting water, filtering air and sterilising surfaces by utilising wavelengths of light between 200 – 280 nanometres.
Exposing pathogens to UV-C within the air conditioning system breaks down the molecular structure of the DNA, neutralising them. Clean air is then released into the cabin. The technology could even help in the fight against drug-resistant superbugs.
Jaguar Land Rover is exploring UV-C technology as part of its vision to create a tranquil sanctuary inside each of its luxury vehicles. The manufacturer is piloting a wide range of driver and passenger wellbeing features, as it looks towards a self-driving future.
Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover chief medical officer, said: “The average motorist spends as much as 300 hours per year behind the wheel. There is a clear opportunity to better utilise cars for administering preventative healthcare.”
“The implementation of individual wellbeing measures as part of our ‘tranquil sanctuary’ research promises to not only improve quality of life for our customers but in this case, offers clear advantages in reducing pathogen spread – protecting the overall population from the threat of disease; particularly as we move towards shared mobility solutions.”
Jaguar Land Rover is already actively seeking to neutralise pathogens in its latest generation Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, available across the range including the all-electric Jaguar I-PACE and Range Rover Sport. The current Four-zone Climate Control and Cabin Air Ionisation system works by using high voltage to create trillions of nano-sized negatively charged particles (ions) coated in water molecules. These ions deactivate pathogens, forming larger particles which are removed from the air as they are brought back into the filter. As well as combatting pathogens, the ions also act upon odour molecules and allergens in a similar way.
Dr Iley said: “In the colder months infections are spread more easily, it’s reassuring to know that in your car at least, you can be confident that harmful pathogens are being neutralised.”
Recent medical trials* suggest the use of UV-C could be even more effective as it has been shown to cut the transmission of four major superbugs by up to 30%. Researchers focused on four drug-resistant organisms: MRSA, vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), C. difficile and Acinetobacter.
Immunology expert, Dr. Hellmut Münch, CEO at Medical Enzyme Research Association, said: “The rise of superbugs and allergens is one of the largest threats we face as a species today. Investment in immunology is vital in ensuring that our immune systems stay ahead of the race against microorganisms, which are evolving far quicker than traditional pharmaceuticals can keep pace with. It is important that we continue to take an innovative look at how we can adapt our environment to help prevent the spread of the most harmful pathogens – which is why this research is paramount.”