Ford’s Next Generation Self-Driving Fusion Hybrid Makes Public Debut At CES 2017

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Ford is moving forward with its autonomous vehicle aspirations, and the latest piece to the puzzle is a next generation hardware suite that makes this feat possible. Ford has introduced next generation self-driving hardware, and it’s installed on the mid-cycle refresh of the popular Ford Fusion Hybrid mid-size sedan. While Ford is giving us an early scoop right now, it will be unveiled to the public next week at CES 2017.

This time around, Ford has increased processing power, allowing the vehicles to process data faster and filter information coming from the bevy of sensors and cameras scattered both inside and outside the vehicle. The newest Ford Fusion Hybrid packs so much power that the internal lithium-ion battery that is typically used for the hybrid system was not enough to run the computing systems. So, Ford had to install a secondary generator in the trunk to help power the upgraded hardware.

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As you might imagine, with the trunk being occupied primarily by high performance computer components (and the generator) there is no room for cargo.

In addition to the increased processing power, Ford says that the vehicle’s electrical controls are “closer to production-ready” and the upgraded LiDAR sensors offer a “more targeted field of vision” to improve situational awareness for the self-driving system (they are not mounted on the A-pillars). Ford was also able to reduce the number of LiDAR sensors in half from four to two, thanks to the new positioning and hardware advances.

Ford’s efforts with self-driving vehicles kicked off with 10 vehicles three years ago. It is tripling its fleet to 30 vehicles with the addition of this second-generation platform. Ford hopes to triple the fleet yet again to 90 vehicles in 2017.

By the time 2021 comes around, Ford plans to put production vehicles on the road that are capable of fully autonomous driving. Hopefully by that point, the huge hit to cargo capacity will be taken care of. However, we seriously doubt that all of the legal ramifications of self-driving vehicles will be resolved by then.