an announcement coinciding with the Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas, Ford said it will begin using a new, lower cost LiDAR
sensor made by California-based Velodyne. The high cost of such
sensors, which act as the eyes of a self-driving car, is one of
the main technical obstacles to widespread commercialization of
self-driving vehicles, industry executives say.
Ford said it will be the first automaker to use Velodyne’s new
solid state “hybrid Ultra PUCK Auto” sensor. The compact device
replaces the spinning scanners mounted on the rooftops of some
autonomous test vehicles. Ford said two of these sensors could
replace four current LiDAR sensors. The Ultra PUCKs are small
enough to mount on a side-view mirror, Ford said.
Ford said it will add 20 hybrid Ford Fusion sedans to its
existing 10-vehicle self-driving car fleet, and test them on
roads in California, Arizona and Michigan. Rival automakers are
also testing fleets of self-driving cars on and off public
roads. Alphabet Inc’s <GOOG.O> Google has been testing
self-driving cars of various kinds, including some of its own
design, since 2009.
Separately, Ford said it is exploring ways to link in-home
automation devices such as Amazon.com Inc's <AMZN.O> Echo to the
Sync communications systems in its cars to allow consumers to
control lights or thermostats inside the home from the car, or
start up cars and check fuel levels from inside the house.
In a third technology-related move, Ford said it will
collaborate with drone maker DJI to sponsor a contest to develop
drone-to-vehicle communications systems using the connectivity
systems on a Ford F-150. Contestants would design a system that
United Nations workers can use to survey disaster areas, Ford
said. The winner would get $100,000.
(Reporting by Joe White; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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