If you see a hybrid Ford mid-size sedan cruising as well as no obvious input drivers, rest assured that you are not an illusion. Since 2013, Ford has used a modified fusion test to independently drive a hybrid car technology.
GM is now introducing an updated version, which will form the basis for a larger test fleet. The goal is to build a “big capacity” unmanned vehicle in production by 2021. Appeared in the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show and 2017 Detroit auto show, the second generation of automatic fusion hybrid features updated sensor, coupled with the computer more processing power.
It is based on a slightly refurbished production hybrid electric vehicle, which debuted in 2017.
Changes to production models include indoor and outdoor design adjustments, and changes to the powertrain control software.
The autonomous Fusion Hybrid now features three cameras mounted on two rooftop racks, a forward-facing camera mounted underneath the windshield, and short- and long-range radar units.
It also continues to use Lidar, which is similar to radar but uses light instead of radio waves.
The Lidar units in the updated Fusion Hybrid test vehicle are more compact, and offer a better field of vision, than the units on the previous-generation car, according to Ford.
This allowed Ford to mount two Lidar units on the windshield pillars, as opposed to the previous, more conspicuous, configuration of four units on the roof.
All of these sensors—and the trunk-mounted computers that actually control the car—require a lot of electricity, which is why Ford uses Fusion Hybrids instead of conventional gasoline-powered Fusion sedans.
The standard model’s electrical system is inadequate to meet the demands, but the hybrid’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack can provide the needed levels of current.
Ford’s Detroit competitors have also chosen electrified vehicles as the platforms for their self-driving car tests.
General Motors is already using the Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, and plans to expand its testing program in the coming year.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) recently delivered 100 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid plug-in hybrid minivans to Waymo—the company that started out as Google’s self-driving car division—for conversion into prototype autonomous vehicles.
Ford currently has 30 of the first-generation autonomous Fusion Hybrid sedans in its fleet, and plans to triple the number of cars in 2017.
Tests are now taking place in certain areas of Arizona, California, Michigan on the highway. Ford’s goal is to unmanned manual unmanned vehicles in 2021 marked volume into production. However, the car will use only ownership services, which will give Ford better control over the initial deployment of the car and simplify the collection of performance data.