Self-driving cars are nothing new: Google, Lexus and Audi have all showcased the technology in prototype form before. But these autonomous vehicles are all designed to operate on public roads and handle unforeseen obstacles using advanced sensors like LIDAR. What about cars operating in a controlled environment like a private track? Ford engineers answered this question when they partnered with Autonomous Solutions Inc. to develop robot drivers to test vehicle durability. The GPS-based system (accurate to one inch) allows up to eight autonomous cars to operate simultaneously on the same track.
Durability testing is traditionally rough on both test vehicles and human drivers. The new technology, which is three years in the making, is now being used to test upcoming models (like Ford's 2014 Transit van). It enables testing 24 hours a day, seven days a week with perfect repeatability. Vehicles send their position and speed to a central computer (monitored by a single person) via a low-latency wireless connection and receive instructions on what maneuvers to perform. This is actually quite similar to what Anki Drive is doing with toy cars. Motors control the steering wheel, gear shifter and pedals to simulate a driver following a predetermined route.
Ford plans to equip the cars with more sensors (such as radar and cameras) to allow a mix of human and robot drivers to operate safely on the same track together. Check out the gallery below and the company's video and PR after the break.
Via:New York Times