By on November 15, 2015


It’s not quite “Vanilla Sky,” but Ford is testing its autonomous vehicle tech at the University of Michigan’s Mcity, a 32-acre fake city with weirdly placed fire hydrants and fake hipster bookstores, and no one around.

The automaker announced Friday that its Fusion Hybrid was managing the testing grounds’ lanes, turns, roads, intersections, lights, without one artificial bumper bent or curbed wheel — allegedly.

Ford’s announcement and video are thin on details but thick with meaning: Ford is still kicking in the robot-car game. Automakers such as General Motors, Tesla and Volvo have announced or rolled out semi-autonomous features such as Super Cruise, Auto-Pilot or Autopilot. (Wait, Volvo and Tesla call it the same thing?)

“Testing Ford’s autonomous vehicle fleet at Mcity provides another challenging, yet safe, urban environment to repeatedly check and hone these new technologies,” Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development said in statement. “This is an important step in making millions of people’s lives better and improving their mobility.”

In case you were thinking that the Big Blue Oval was behind on this technology stuff, there’s always this, from the statement:

Ford has been testing autonomous vehicles for more than 10 years and is now expanding testing on the diversity of roads and realistic neighborhoods of Mcity near the North Campus Research Complex to accelerate research of advanced sensing technologies.

They practically invented robot cars, you guys.

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29 Comments on “Ford’s Autonomous Fusion Drives Around Artificial Michigan City All Alone (Video)...”

  • avatar

    Make the cars so boring that only a robot wants to drive them.

  • avatar

    Looks like they are using four of these Velodyne Lidar sensors.

    • 0 avatar

      Will all future AVs need exposed whirlygigs on the roof?

      • 0 avatar

        Not necessarily. Although Lidar ranging and object detection is the preferred “seeing” method of many big budget autonomous car projects, it is possible to achieve similar results with an array of stereoscopic cameras. The magic is really not in the sensing system, but rather in the software that interprets the data.

        When these cars go on sale, incorporating autonomous drive components will just become another design challenge for stylist, with much better overall integration. Until then, expect to see more of the tacked on lightbar look.

        • 0 avatar

          “incorporating autonomous drive components will just become another design challenge for stylist”

          They’ll have plenty of space to work with given the needlessly gargantuan greenhouses on today’s cars.

        • 0 avatar

          >> Not necessarily. Although Lidar ranging and object detection is the preferred “seeing” method of many big budget autonomous car projects

          I’ve had way too many problems with LIDAR. I don’t like it at all.

          In the last DARPA Challenge, they wanted us to have a robot climb into an unmodified vehicle and drive it. That’s probably the direction we’re ultimately headed.


          • 0 avatar

            Just because you see what appears to be LIDAR on this particular car does not mean that is the only thing they are working with. It just means that is what they are willing to let people think they are doing. They may have other cars outfitted other ways cars with multiple sensing and/or control systems to decided which is best. If I were designing it I’d have two or three systems on one car and while one may only be in charge at a particular time I’d be tracking the outputs or the intended outputs of all systems to compare.

  • avatar

    Toyota is investing a billion dollars in AI research to develop autonomous cars. I’m glad to see an auto company finally recognize how tough it’s going to be to develop fully autonomous cars.

    Ford and Google are wasting their time with technology that’s inadequate for the real world. Sort like someone announcing that they’re going to hike to the summit of Everest, then heading over to walmart to buy their equipment. Next, they train by taking walks around their suburban neighborhood with a Dora the Explorer backpack.

    • 0 avatar

      Any idea on a dollar figure for Goo… Alphabets to date and planned investments in autonomous vehicles? Toyota’s B sounds big, but what is it being compared to?

    • 0 avatar

      Please tell me more about the Google and Ford autonomous technology vs. the future planned Toyota technology, I haven’t heard very much. I’m interested in a full technical breakdown, don’t be afraid to throw in graphs and code.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re going to have to wait for the patent filings! Anyway, for Toyota and some of the others, a few searches on Google will give you an idea. For me, right now I’m primarily focused on intuitive AI with the goal of predicting situations before they happen rather than hoping there is time to react. Here’s the platform I’m targeting:

        As far as a comparison with Google and Ford, Toyota is investing a billion in the AI portion alone. Not the little towns and tele-tubby taxis etc., but in two AI research centers. Given the investment and the fact they’re making it now shows that they believe there is a lot of AI work to me done before we have true level 5 autonomous vehicles. Google does have their own AI research efforts, but I’m not sure how much is devoted to AV research.

        I also believe that most of the current hardware architecture and software won’t survive to be deployed, so at some point current players will be starting almost from scratch – and I’m definitely not a fan of LIDAR.

    • 0 avatar

      The announcement of spending $1B is Toyota admitting that they are behind in this race.

      Just because Ford and Google haven’t said exactly how much they have spent up to this point and how much they plan to spend in the future doesn’t mean that they are not taking it seriously.

      Note Ford probably made a donation to the UofM project city and I’m betting other automakers have as well but that money wouldn’t have necessarily came out of the budget for Autonomous vehicles. It would have likely came out of their general funding to support education.

      Note Ford has had cars that will self parrallel park for a number of years and they funded and I be kept at least a license, and the results from the work that was done by their former Volvo division. Volvo has had demo cars that will drop you off at the door, go find a parking spot and then come back and pick you up at the door when you tell it to.

      So again this is Toyota saying oh crap we need to catch up and we need to show that we are taking it seriously now.

  • avatar

    A car isn’t truly autonomous until it can drive without a human in it.

    “Auto” means “self”.

    I should be able to tell the car to go pick my girlfriend up from the train station when she comes from the city – and never have to leave the comfort of my bed .

  • avatar

    Step in the right direction by Ford. I can see UPS FedEx etc adopting this technology for small-package residential delivery. The recepient get a call and the vehicle arrives outside their residence. They approach, possibly use a keyboard on the vehicle side and the package is dispensed.

    Residential delivery is not profitable after it passes one attempt. How often do you see free shipping or shipping included when internet shopping? It’s cut down to the bone.
    And the added labor savings would be a big welcome.

    • 0 avatar

      So I get to root through everyone else’s packages to find my own? Because how could any automated dispensing system in the back of a delivery van deal with the usual highly varied assortment of boxes and bags that a human driver does?

      My old Christmas present-shaking analytics will again come in handy.

      • 0 avatar

        They all have bar codes on them to identify which package goes where. The bigger issue is the actual package handling of the widely varying sizes. The truck would know what is in it and what location it is on the truck and just do a scan of it before it shoots it out the slot as a double check and so they can send you the email that it has been delivered.

        Most items are delivered by dropping them at the door so there aren’t that many reattempts at delivery.

        • 0 avatar

          “dropping them at the door”

          My front patio’s a little narrow for that.

          Maybe an Asimo could ride in the back like a high tech trunk monkey and run the package up from the driveway.

  • avatar

    Ups needs this technology. An autonomous delivery truck with a package catapult makes more sense than a drone.

    I don’t know why but this subject makes me think of really stupid movies. The autopilot from Airplane is just obvious. The catapult from Monty Python’s Holy Grail installed on a UPS truck. Then, for no apparent reason except for how the autopilot in Airplane was inflated, there’s Billy Madison:

    Frank: Who would you rather bone, Meg Ryan or Jack Nicholson?

    Billy Madison: Jack Nicholson now, or 1974?

    Frank: ’74.

    Billy Madison: Meg Ryan.

  • avatar

    So the guy in the picture sitting behind the wheel of the autonomous car is… a big nobody?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Like driving behind an old lady on Sunday morning on her way to church

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