This is Ford's next step to getting this tech on the road by 2021. The company wants to create a ride hailing service for autonomous vehicles.

Ford will publicly debut the next generation of its experimental autonomous technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January and at the North American International Auto Show soon afterward. Rather than looking like a pair of horns sprouting from a Fusion’s roof, the new solution is a cleaner implementation that resembles a traditional luggage rack.

Ford still wants to make autonomous tech available for ride hailing by 2021 and for consumers by 2025. This upgrade is a major step toward that goal, according to Chris Brewer, the chief program engineer of Ford Autonomous Vehicle Development, in a blog post on Medium. Better lidar sensors that extend from the front pillars let Ford use two of them, instead of four on the roof, and their lasers can detect objects around 600 yards (549 meters) away. The racks along the roof each hold three cameras, and there’s a forward-facing camera at the windshield for monitoring things like changing traffic lights. Radar lets the vehicle “see” through obstructions like rain, fog, or snow. In the trunk, Ford mounts a more powerful computer in the trunk that can process a terabyte of data every hour.

Ford Fusion Autonomous 2
Ford Fusion Autonomous 2

Like the first-gen examples, Ford will test the updated vehicles in California, Arizona, and Michigan. It will also begin evaluating the tech in Europe in 2017. The company’s goal will be to eventually make the system sophisticated enough that a conventional steering wheel and pedals won’t be necessary.

A recent law in Michigan allows automakers to run autonomous ride hailing services in the state and clears the way for Ford to set up the business there. The company has already been experimenting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with how the system would work. A partnership with students there has created self-driving shuttles for transporting people. By taking into account class schedules and weather, the vehicles have even been able to predict where demand would be highest and drove themselves to those locations.

Source: Ford, Medium

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Gallery: Second-gen Ford Fusion Autonomous

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Ford Motor Company is introducing its next-generation Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle, just in time for CES and the North American International Auto Show in January.

The new vehicle uses the current Ford autonomous vehicle platform, but ups the processing power with new computer hardware. Electrical controls are closer to production-ready, and adjustments to the sensor technology, including placement, allow the car to better see what’s around it. New LiDAR sensors have a sleeker design and more targeted field of vision, which enables the car to now use just two sensors rather than four, while still getting just as much data.

The new vehicle also evolves the two main elements to creating an autonomous vehicle – the autonomous vehicle platform, which is an upgraded version of the car itself, and the virtual driver system.

The next-gen Fusion Hybrid autonomous development vehicle follows the company’s current generation, which hit the streets three years ago.

Read more about Ford’s quest to build a high-volume, fully autonomous SAE level 4-capable vehicle by 2021 in a Medium blog post authored by Chris Brewer, chief program engineer, Ford Autonomous Vehicle Development, here.