Ford Patents Autonomous Off-Road Driving System

November 14, 2017 at 12:26 PM

Last week Ford Motor Co. received a U.S. patent for an off-road autonomous driving system.

The feature would use a variety of onboard inputs—cameras, radar, lidar, ultrasonic sensors and high-definition topographical maps—to detect obstacles and terrain variances in a vehicle’s path. This could include ditches and creeks, rocks, branches, stumps, tree trunks and hills.

Sensors first would assess if the vehicle can navigate over or around an object. If the route is deemed passable, the system would automatically adjust the vehicle’s active suspension, body mounts, differentials and wheel positions to optimize ground clearance and other settings.

Based on pre-set risk analytics, the system would determine whether it’s necessary to automate braking, steering and throttle functions to safely traverse the course. The system also could be programmed to recommend or require occupants to exit a vehicle if a maneuver is deemed too risky to attempt with passengers. Safety systems such as airbags and rollover protection bars also could be prepped for specific maneuvers, according to the patent.

Ford says the technology could be used in any type of car, minivan, crossover/SUV, pickup truck, van or bus.

Other companies, including Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. and Continental AG, also are developing automated technologies for off-road driving. Land Rover demonstrated its technology last year.