Ford continues work to lead autonomous vehicle efforts

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Ford autonomous vehicle warning lights

Autonomous vehicles are coming. Automotive manufacturers like Ford are working around the clock to make sure that this technology will blend seamlessly into the driving environment. That doesn’t just mean developing ways for these future cars, trucks and SUVs to communicate with one another – though that is important. Ford’s current challenge is to find out how to make sure the autonomous vehicles can convey its intentions to more unpredictable road users like pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers. In August, Ford and some researchers from Virginia Tech put on some serious miles testing one way to get everyone on the same page.

READ MORE: Ford makes unlikely partnership to test new technology

“Understanding how self-driving vehicles impact the world as we know it today is critical to ensuring we’re creating the right experience for tomorrow,” John Shutko, Ford’s human factors technical specialist said in a press release. “We need to solve for the challenges presented by not having a human driver, so designing a way to replace the head nod or hand wave is fundamental to ensuring safe and efficient operation of self-driving vehicles in our communities.”

A research hides inside of a simulated self-driving vehicle
This set up helped gauge reaction to the new ford signalling system

Warning Lights: Not just for signs anymore

One of the ways pedestrians and bicyclists know that a driver sees them is through eye contact. Obviously, with an autonomous vehicle, that isn’t always going to be possible. In order to help anyone outside of the vehicle understand its intentions, Ford engineers rigged up a method of signaling pedestrians using an LED light bar. Brake lights and turn signals are already understood, using the light bar is just an extension of that idea. There are three messages the team wanted to convey to people on the street, the vehicle would be yielding, driving autonomously and starting from a stop.

  • Signal to yield: A pair of white lights moved side to side signaling the vehicle is about to stop.
  • Autonomous driving: A solid, unblinking white light lets people know the computer is driving.
  • Accelerating: The light blinks rapidly to let bystanders know the vehicle is about to be in motion
?Ford and the team from the university rigged up a Transit Connect van using an innovative way to hide the driver while testing the light-based signaling system. Over 150 hours and 1,800 miles of testing, the team activated the lights more than 1,650 times, gaining lots of useful data.


If you would like to take a look at the outstanding technology that Ford currently offers, please stop by the Heritage Ford showroom anytime.

Originally posted 09/25/2017

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