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William Litant/MIT

Ford, MIT team up to predict transit demand using sensors, LiDAR

If you want to be seen as a tech-forward company, partnering with MIT is a pretty great way to do that.

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Why bother guessing how pedestrians will move when you can observe and create algorithms based on actual, real-world experience?


If you want to observe pedestrian behavior to create an on-demand mobility solution, you could draw up some models and use some guesswork. Ford's taking it one step further, monitoring actual pedestrian movements in real time, with some help from MIT, to create a shuttle service that will be in the right place at the right time.

The goal of the coupling is to create an on-demand shuttle service that will operate in and around MIT's campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The shuttles will use LiDAR sensors and cameras to quantify pedestrian movements, which will allow the shuttles to drive to areas where demand for a ride will be high. It also has the benefits of bettering autonomous-vehicle mapping and pedestrian detection.

The system, when it's released this fall, will let pedestrians use a mobile app to hail one of three on-demand electric vehicles. Small enough to be used on sidewalks, these vehicles are also equipped with weatherproof enclosures to block out rain and snow.

Ford and MIT and have been mapping pedestrian movements for five months thus far, so that algorithms can best predict where to keep these vehicles stationed. This reduction in wait time will likely go on to create a framework for similar mobility solutions in larger cities. Ford is a part of more than 30 different university projects, all of which are dedicated to similar pursuits.