Ford's self-driving car prototype has 360-degree infrared vision, and can track potential dangers up to 60 metres away.
The Ford Automated Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle, which is a project collaboration between the car maker, the University of Michigan, and the State Farm insurance company, is a prototype that will test the potential for automated driving in the near future.
Based on a 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, the car keeps its existing adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping guidance, as well as its automatic parallel parking mode. The research vehicle adds a 360-degree LiDAR sensor, using a battery of infrared lasers to scan the surrounding environment at 2.5 million times per second.
According to Ford, "LiDAR uses light in the same way a bat or dolphin uses sound waves, and can bounce infrared light off everything within 200 feet to generate a real-time 3D map of the surrounding environment.
"The sensors can track anything dense enough to redirect light, whether stationary objects, or moving objects such as vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The sensors are so sensitive they can sense the difference between a paper bag and a small animal at nearly a football field away."
In the near future, Ford wants to work on car-to-car autonomous communication, letting several cars driving to the same destination travel in packs to reduce congestion and fuel usage. Until then, it's also refining low-speed driving and collision avoidance systems.
Ford's vision for the future enabled by the development of its self-driving, world-sensing car is ambitious. Executive chairman Bill Ford is optimistic: “We see a future of connected cars that communicate with each other and the world around them to make driving safer, ease traffic congestion and sustain the environment."
You can watch a video of the self-driving Ford Fusion in action on Ford's website.