Ford It has been in the Mobile World Congres in Barcelona’s this year with a couple of new features. On the one hand it has unveiled premiered the new Ford Focus 2014, which includes new multimedia connectivity and control system by voice Sync 2, as well as new equipment of safety and driver assistance, and on the other hand has led to the fair its autonomous car prototype.
Of the two, the probably most striking car that he drives alone without a driver. Those who interested to continue the technological evolution of cars, you know that the Ford is not the first or only project of autonomous car that is arising in the industry (is just to remember it). News of it reached us in December, now we have known it in person.
Ford Fusion/Mondeo hybrid, a car that has been used for this autonomous prototype
Objective: fewer traffic accidents
The goal pursued with autonomous cars manufacturers, have already spoken you on other occasions, is to reduce the number of traffic accidents, and in consequence of deaths and wounded, to help minimize or eliminate the human factor. Human error is the cause of three of every four accidents.
Manufacturers raise the systems of autonomous driving as a system of Security that the driver can enable or disable at will, depending on the situation. For example, I like driver, if you now want me driving, because I like driving, give the button, step-by-step manual driving mode, and I drive. On the other hand, if I see that I am very tired that night, is that he is entering me dream and that I am not in top condition to drive, I give the button, step to automatic mode, and he drives the car only. That would be the idea.
It is also thinking in specific for autonomous driving roads, or for autonomous driving lanes. Consider for example that circular highway is monotonous and boring for many drivers, and is a very simple situation for autonomous driving. Or consider that within a few years we could have highways with manual driving lanes and lanes for autonomous driving, as for example there are now special lanes for BUS/HOV, to give another example of how the (not so distant) future mobility is displayed.
Interior of a normal Ford Fusion Hybrid (in the self-employed, the only difference is that there are two “panic buttons”, one yellow and one red, in the coasters between the shifter and the armrest)
Project in collaboration with the University of Michigan
The world of motoring enthusiasts will know that Ford Motor Company has its headquarters and headquarters in the town of Dearborn, not far from Detroit, in the State of Michigan, in the North of the United States near the Great Lakes. And so for the research project on autonomous driving participated several engineers from the University of Michigan, In addition to Ford engineers.
It is important to make it clear, and that is why we repeat, that is an experimental autonomous car, as those other brands, which is used to investigate the matter, to test the technology, check how it works, experience routines, know their limitations, go debugging performance, detect potential problems in programming and do kilometers and hours of driving, how much more better.
We are not talking about a car that will be put on sale shortly. As with other manufacturers is intended dates approximate between 2020 and 2025 to start thinking about selling cars as well. There is much to check up to be sure 100% that is a perfectly safe and reliable car.
Also still you have to work on lowering systems, Since little it is put on sale an autonomous car that just to buy a few wealthy, should reduce size and better integrate into the design of the car systems and sensors, which now occupy enough space or are very visible, and public administrations have to legislate and regulate the use by roads of this type of car.
Here is the car in the test circuit. We see the buttons, and a notebook to see what processes the computer
How is the autonomous car?
So in essence all the prototypes of autonomous cars that have been presented so far are very similar. In his day, for example, we explain how it is and how it works Google autonomous car.
Autonomous car Ford is a Ford Fusion Hybrid (in Europe the merger will be called Mondeo, but will be the same car, and with luck will come in the second half of this year). This car is a sedan of 4.87 m long, hybrid of gasoline with 188 HP and automatic change. We had the opportunity to drive it briefly in Dearborn last year.
And on the basis of a normal car that anyone can buy, add systems, sensors and computer to make that will only travel. Be part of a car with automatic change because it is necessary and essential for the functioning.
An automatic transmission can be controlled electronically by computer “brain” of the autonomous car. A traditional manual gearbox with clutch, not. The Steering, throttle and brakes also have an electronic control, and again the computer can operate them at will.
For example, the electric power steering includes electric actuators spinning the steering wheel what is necessary, according to the orders to the computer. They are the ones that are already used today in the semi-automatic parking systems.
The computer autonomous car will be placed in the trunk, along with the systems of power and cooling, and a great router cables of different sensors reach which and also enabling to connect a portable terminal with which to access the computer. It occupies enough space, but within a few years, in an autonomous car that it can be put on sale, should not be so.
We did not engineer exactly what processors or how much memory ram takes, but told us that it comes to have a power equal to five times that we have a current home computer decent.
We also asked if you were used at some point to cloud computing, and assured us that no, that all the parameters and data are computed on board, and decisions are made in real time on your own computer.
Sensors, sensors and more sensors
But of course, to make decisions the computer has to do what is wrong, neither more nor less than as if it were a driver, and that’s where you have to add a series of sensors that are the eyes and ears of the car.
It is also very important the redundancy systems, several times, three or four times, so if a type of sensor does not “see” well at that time, or fails or breaks down, there is other sensors that likewise to see what is happening. What are these sensors? See them.
Four LIDAR on the roof
You could say that the four LIDAR to assemble the car on the roof, are the fundamental element for computer capture the car environment and see what there is to her around. Are placed two LiDAR on each side of the car, one vertically and another inclined downwards, to better cover the space very close to both sides of the car.
In short a LIDAR is a light radar, or exactly a Light Detection and Ranging, or Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging, where from a light bulb is emitted beams of non-visible lasers to bounce off surfaces and return to capture in the own LIDAR.
We could say that we have three types of “radar”, all based on the same principle: radiate energy that bounces off a surface and allows you to position it in space and know what distance is measuring the time it takes from the emitted until the reflected signal is received.
The sonar is a “radar” sound, it emits a sound wave that bounces off the surface. Radar’s radio waves are emitted at a specific frequency radio waves and bounce, and lidar is a “radar” light, emitted beams of laser light bouncing also (in this way the fundamental concept of operation of each one of the systems as simple is well understood).
The LIDAR that Ford uses are the Velodyne brand, specifically the HDL-32E model. In each of them there is an emitter source and a receiver focus (a simple view two lenses behind a glass darkly). Emitting focus launches 32 beams of laser light, wavelength 905 nm (fall within the range of the infrared) that they have an impact on the ground, with an angle of 30 degrees below the horizontal, and rise up to 10 degrees above the horizontal. The laser is class 1, eye-safe.
Each unit LIDAR weighs slightly less than 2 kg. Each focus turns around itself to 600 revolutions per minute (10 times per second), to cover the 360 degrees around the car. They have a precision of +/-2 cm.
Its scope of each 70 to 100 m from, Depending on the clear that is the environment, or the nature of the surfaces on which affect rays of light. There are more reflective surfaces and others change less. Approximately every second four autonomous Ford LiDAR system sends no less than 2.5 million points of information to your computer.
With them is generated one three-dimensional image of 360-degree environment car. The LiDAR are recognized the physical limits of the road, buildings, crossings, trees, but also pedestrians, cyclists, cars, etc. are located.
The weak point of any lidar is that it is an optical device and may suffer problems of visibility: you can not see well through crystals, it can be confused with a mirror or look worse if there is heavy rain, snow or fog. And so there are more sensors besides the Lidars (remember that the redundancy that you discussed earlier).
High resolution video camera
Another very important sensor is the high resolution video camera and high dynamic range. It was not mounted in the car exposed at MWC, so does not appear in the photos, but engineer reminded us that it is also very important. This camera is able to see with very little light, and even a strong sun face that does not shine directly onto the lens.
This works associated with a software installed in the computer image recognition. It allows for example to recognize an animal of a person, the lights of the traffic lights, traffic signs, lines of Rails and the limits of speed, as well as many other things.
This is the 3D image of 360 degrees that is generated in real time with the information captured by the four car LIDAR
Two GPS of high precision and three radar antennas
On the roof of the car there two high-precision GPS antennas, one ahead of the LIDAR set and another at the back. They are fundamental to position the car on the map with an accuracy of about one meter. They are very important for maps and GPS are the only thing that has the car to know to go from one point to another.
GPS and LIDAR are complemented with a inertial measurement unit placed in the trunk, which includes a gyroscope and an accelerometer of high precision.
Are no less important the three radars installed in the car, this time with r, as they are radio wave radars. These are already completely hidden and unseen. The principal is the front, will be placed in the lower front grille, behind a black plastic which camouflages it.
It has a range of about 200 meters, and serves to control and monitor all the vehicles that go ahead our, and among other things is responsible for knowing and verify that he stays the safety distance with vehicles that we precede.
In the corners of the rear bumper, one on each side, near the fins, there are other two radars that look back, and coming to replace mirrors, because they allow the computer to see back on each side of the car, and know if there are vehicles behind, how far are, or if there are cars on the side rails.
Sensors ultrasonic and wheel encoder
For short distances, and especially for manoeuvres such as park or go backwards, they are included Ultrasonic sensors in bumpers front and rear, six in each one. They measured distances from about 30 cm up to a few meters, and detect objects, still or moving. They come to be those already used in the current parking aid attendants.
Finally the last sensor that takes autonomous car, but that is not mounted in the unit that was carried to the MWC, nor comes out in photos, is a the left rear wheel encoder, that accurately measures the distance traveled (it sees a moment in the video of the final).
In total, with all operational sensors, the computer “brain” of the autonomous car comes to process some 2.8 million of data per second, We explained the engineer.
Ask also what level of automation and independence have this autonomous car, responded to 100%, and does not depend on or positioning on the road, or other vehicles infrastructure. The car can lead completely alone, in all types of roads, and making decisions in real time according to what happens in each moment.
For example he explained to us that it is programmed to drive as you would any responsible driver. By default you will observe all traffic rules and speed limits, and it will lead to moderate and safe speed smoothly, but is able to recognize special situations and respond accordingly.
For example, if you are at a crossroad complicated with a lot of traffic, and is difficult to go through that crossing, after seeing and understanding all vehicles approaching, can be concluded that the only way to pass is to gatecrash giving a strong boost and with decision, and will.
And the same to an unforeseen event, the programming is designed to curb with softness and comfort, but if suddenly crosses an animal, or a child, the computer makes the decision, with what is best, or give a volantazo and avoid the child, or paste a halt to fund.
Even so, as it is an experimental car, and as it is in evidence and something could fail, is an autonomous car that must always be with driver, and the car has a pair of special buttons in the extension of the center console, near the shifter, where in normal conditions there are two coasters: are two panic buttons, one yellow to a deactivation of emergence of autonomous driving systems, and other Red to cut the power to the motor, and that it stops, just in case all else fails and the car is out of control.
The penalty is that we could not test the car (in the end, no one could). This single time it was at the fair to be seen and explained, but not tested. Again shall be.
The costs of travel and accommodation to visit the exhibition MWC 2014 (Barcelona) have been borne by the brand. For more information please refer to our policy of relations with companies.