Autonomous driving: Ford drives through the night without any light

A test in the US has shown that autonomous cars find their way even without cameras. A sophisticated sensor technique makes it possible.

Ford testet autonomes Fahren mit neuer Sensotechnik

Autonomous driving through the night: Ford is testing the new LiDAR-technology in their Fusion Hybrid car. (Picture: Ford)

Up to now, you could only see it on TV. For car chases in the dark, crooks turn off the light of their car in order to get rid of their persecutors. As the human eye cannot keep up, the blind race often ends up in a crash.

However, these days, a test in the desert of the American state Arizona has shown that driving through the night without any light is possible. A self-driving prototype of the Ford Fusion found its way with the help of high-tech sensors. According to the manufacturer, the LiDAR technology (Light detection and ranging) scans the environment by laser with a rate of 2.8 million/sec. Thus, the test has shown that autonomous driving is also possible without any cameras.

Laser, radar and 3-D maps show us the way ahead

Ford explains that for driving in the dark, their autonomous cars use high-resolution 3-D maps that contain information about topography, streets, road markings, buildings, street signs and trees. For autonomous driving, the vehicle compares the detected real-time impulses from the LiDAR sensor with the map and the data of the radar. During the night-time testing, the Ford Fusion Hybrid stayed at its path accurately even at twisty sections.

Autonomous driving could make an enormous contribution to driving safety at night-time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accidents with casualties happen three times more often during the night than in the daylight.

Ford explains that they study technologies for autonomous driving for more than ten years. Their goal is to develop vehicles that fulfil the international SAE standard Level 4. This would mean, that the driver wouldn’t have to intervene at all. This year, the manufacturer plans to triple its autonomous testing fleet in the US to 30 vehicles. Additional road testing is planned for California, Arizona and Michigan.

Read more: Autonomous driving: which projects are in the pipeline?

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