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Ford first to test self-driving cars at Mcity

Michigan uni autonomous driving park hosts first full sized cars from Ford

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Ford logo17 Nov 2015

By TIM ROBSON

THE multi-million dollar Mcity autonomous driving park at the University of Michigan has welcomed its first full-sized self-driving cars onto the 13-hectare site.

Ford has commenced testing its Fusion hybrid self-driver – known as the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle – on the site. The Fusion is equipped with commercially available driving technologies like radar cruise control and lane departure control, and is also fitted with four lidar (laser radar) sensors that measure distance via radar pulse.

The cars have been in service since 2013 and are part of a decade-long program run by the company in testing and developing autonomous cars. The Mcity site was opened in July 2015, and has only so far played host to modified golf buggy-style electric vehicles.

“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies,” said Ford Motor Company group vice president of global product development Raj Nair. “This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.” Built with assistance from the local government, the Mcity facility is an independent facility designed to replicate the conditions that autonomous vehicles will be expected to face in the real world.

Everything from building facades, level crossings, faded line markings and traffic lights to school zones, graffiti-marked roads and bus stops are replicated on site.

Related technologies – including vehicles talking to other vehicles (V2V) or to infrastructure (V2I) – are also tested on site, along with various levels of automation.

The Fusions will be used to model and test real-time 3D mapping while in Mcity. It will also be tested over a range of surfaces – including concrete, asphalt, simulated brick and dirt – and manoeuvres over two-, three- and four-lane roads, as well as on-ramps and through roundabouts “The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor,” said University of Michigan associate professor Ryan Eustice. “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.” Mr Eustice is also the principal investigator in Ford’s research collaboration with the university, which also manages a large-scale intelligent transport system (ITS) trial in the surrounding district of Ann Arbour.

Closer to home, Volvo has become the first car-maker to have a fully autonomous vehicle tested on public roads in Australia, after a successful outing in Adelaide early in November.

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