Ford Test Drives Its Autonomous Cars in the Snow

ford-test-drives-auto-cars-snow

Ford is giving its autonomous cars a challenge not yet faced by Google’s self-driving car fleet in Silicon Valley: snow.

Seeing where you are going in the snow is challenging for humans but more so for computers, which lack intuition and rely solely on their digital inputs. If the radar and laser imaging sensors can’t see lane markings or road signs, how’s a car to figure out where it is?

Ford’s solution, which it calls “snowtonomy,” relies on high-definition maps that can fill in the gaps when road markings can’t be seen.

The car takes all the visual cues it can from the laser-imaging LIDAR sensors on the roof and matches that to the pre-loaded map, to get an accurate fix on its location. If the system is accurate enough, and Ford says it is, the car is able to keep to its lane even when the lane markings are covered in snow or slush.

“This testing will help us take fully autonomous vehicles to the ultimate level,” said Raj Nair, Ford’s chief technical officer, at a press conference on Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Ford has been testing this out at Mcity, a fake city built by the University of Michigan for testing autonomous cars. The location near Detroit means there’s plenty of opportunity for testing in the snow.

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SOURCE: Computer World, Martyn Williams