1/6/2016 | 1 MINUTE READ

Ford Expands Autonomous Test Fleet, Adds Next-Generation Lidar

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Ford Motor Co. plans to triple its fleet of fully autonomous test vehicles this year with the addition of 20 third-generation models based on the carmaker's Fusion hybrid sedan.

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Ford Motor Co. plans to triple its fleet of fully autonomous test vehicles this year with the addition of 20 third-generation models based on the carmaker's Fusion hybrid sedan. The new vehicles will feature more advanced software algorithms and hardware, including upgraded lidar sensors, according to the carmaker.

They also will include duplicate wiring to provide backup for electric power, steering and brake functions if needed.

The new solid-state lidar sensors, supplied by Silicon Valley-based Velodyne Inc., are smaller, lighter and more powerful than previous units, Ford says. This allows the company to use only two lidar sensors on the new Fusion self-driving vehicles compared with four on previous models.

The new sensors are about the size and shape of a hockey puck. They are compact enough to fit into side rearview mirror housings and have a range of about 650 ft. Ford says their input will help the self-driving Fusions create a precise real-time, high-definition 3-D image of the surrounding environment to better handle a wide range of driving variables.

Ford has been evaluating driverless vehicles on private and public roads for several years in Michigan and Arizona. It will begin testing such cars in California later this year.