Ford (NYSE: F) has unveiled what might be the world’s most advanced self-driving car. A next generation Ford Fusion Hybrid is equipped with several computers capable of generating one terabyte of data an hour, USA Today reported.
A terabyte is usually defined as one million bytes. Ford claims that is more data than the average smartphone owner would use in 45 years. The computers will be located in the vehicle’s trunk.
Other features of the new Fusion include an advanced system of sensors that employs proprietary Ford technology. The new Fusion is an attempt to make good on Ford CEO Mark Fields’ promise to start mass-producing and marketing the world’s first fully autonomous car by 2021.
Ford to Unveil the Future of Autonomous Cars
Another purpose of the car which will be unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January is to counter more glamorous competitors like Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA), Uber and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG). Even though Ford has been doing much of the heavy lifting in autonomous car development, those companies have been attracting all the attention.
From the pictures provided to the media it is obvious that Ford has made a lot of progress in self-driving vehicle technology. The ugly sensors that stick out of the side and tops of the vehicle are nowhere to be seen. Instead the Fusion Hybrid looks like a regular car, that an actual human being might want to drive.
Some of the features of the new Fusion hybrid described by USA Today include:
- Hockey-puck sized LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors that give the vehicle’s sensors a full view of the road. One advantage to these is that they are small enough to be mounted on any vehicle.
- Short and long range sensors that are supposed to see throw fog, rain and even heavy snow.
- Sensors that can determine the speed and direction of moving objects.
- A second power convertor to provide the energy for the computers.
- A forward looking camera under the windshield that gives the computers the ability to identify objects and even tell what color a traffic light is.
Ford’s engineers are planning to build and test a fleet of 90 self-driving hybrids by the end of 2017.
Backlash against Self-Driving Vehicles begins
Recent events in San Francisco show that testing might be harder than engineering a self-driving car. Uber moved the testing of its’ self-driving Volvos from that city to Arizona after the state of California revoked their registration.
The 16 SUVs were being used in fare service in the city by the Bay until public outcry ran them out of town, CNN reported. Opposition from bicyclists and others mounted after video of a self-driving Uber running a red light was posted online.
Interestingly enough Uber did not announce where in Arizona the self-driving Volvos would be tested. Ford, General Motors (NYSE: GM) and the Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) subsidiary Waymo are testing autonomous vehicles in the state.
Alphabet seems to be concerned about such backlashes it kept an October 2015 test of a fully-self driving vehicle secret until December 2016, CNN reported. The company also spun the Google Car Project off into a separate company called Waymo.
It looks as if autonomous vehicles are almost here even if the public is not ready for them. This technology is about to generate some interesting political conflicts.