Ford has been testing a LiDAR sensor system with its autonomous Fusion Hybrid that illuminates the vehicle for night driving, the company announced.
The laser-based system LiDAR pulses to pinpoint itself on a high-resolution 3D map in real time. The system fuses additional data from radar to complete the sensing capability of the autonomous vehicle, according to Ford. LiDAR offers an advantage over camera systems that need light to function.
The automaker has been testing the system at its Ford Arizona Proving Ground in Wittmann.
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," said 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."