Ford has become the first manufacturer to test drive an autonomous vehicle at Mcity, a 32 acre site housing the world’s first, full scale, simulated urban environment, situated at the University of Michigan.
Although the company has been testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years, it is now expanding testing on the diversity of roads and realistic neighbourhoods of Mcity near the North Campus Research Complex in order to accelerate research of advanced sensing technologies.
As you might expect, the snappily-titled Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle is crammed full of technology including today’s driver-assist technologies, such as front-facing cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors. It also adds four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment.
Says Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development:
“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies. This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.”
Opened in July, Mcity is a full-scale urban environment providing real-world road scenarios, such as running a red light, that can’t be replicated on public roads. Other features include street lights, crosswalks, lane delineators, curb cuts, bike lanes, trees, hydrants, sidewalks, signs, traffic control devices – even construction barriers.
The Ford Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle has also been tested over a range of surfaces – concrete, asphalt, simulated brick and dirt – and manoeuvres two-, three- and four-lane roads, as well as ramps, roundabouts and tunnels.
Says Ryan Eustice, University of Michigan associate professor and principal investigator in Ford’s research collaboration with the university:
“The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor. 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.
Adds Peter Sweatman, director at the Mobility Transformation Center:
“We are pleased to welcome Ford as the first automaker to use Mcity to test autonomous vehicles. Mcity offers a unique, real-world test environment that will help Ford accelerate development of its autonomous technology while building on its existing research collaboration with University of Michigan.”
You can see the Fusion Hybrid Autonomous Research Vehicle testing at Mcity in the YouTube video below: