Three years after Ford launched its first-ever Fusion Hybrid autonomous research car, the car manufacturing company is now planning to release a new version of it in January 2017.
Ford will be debuting its self-driving Fusion Hybrid sedan just in time for the CES 2017 trade show in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.
In August this year, Ford announced its plans to come up with a self-sufficient, self-driving, and fully autonomous car by the year 2021. The cars are intended to be used in the ride-sharing space.
According to Chris Brewer, chief program engineer of Ford, the new version of the Fusion Hybrid sedan will still be using the Ford Autonomous vehicle platform. The company has also improved two main things on the updated version: the processing power and sensor technology.
"It's been three years since we hit the streets with our first Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle, and this latest version takes everything we learned and builds on it," Brewer said.
The processor of the next-generation Fusion Hybrid is now located in the trunk of the car, and it is pretty impressive: the car now comes with more powerful hardware that can generate 1 terabyte of data per hour. This will come in handy during street navigation and object recognition while driving.
Ford was able to cut down the number of LiDAR sensors on the car from four to two. The dual sensors are now attached to an insect antennae-like contraption just above the sideview mirrors of the car. Each sensor provides the car with a 360-degree view and allows it to have a targeted field of vision of up to 200 feet in every direction. There are now three cameras on the roof and a fourth one beneath the windshield, which will provide a steady stream of images of pedestrians and vehicles to help the car drive by itself.
Other car manufacturers are also coming up with their own versions of driverless cars. GM said that it will soon be testing its Chevrolet Bolts on open roads, while Google's Self-Driving Car project (now called Waymo) claims that its cars have already driven more than 2 million miles. Ford could also be facing competition from Uber's self-driving cabs and Tesla's AutoPilot.
Ford is now planning to build at least 90 Fusion Hybrid self-driving cars, which will be test-driven in both closed and public roads in Arizona, California, and Michigan. The company hopes that these cars can be used by ridesharing services by 2021.