Driver-less cars are a lot closer to hitting roads in the U.S than you may think. Ford just unveiled its fully-autonomous Fusion Hybrid at this month's CES and the International Auto Show. Ford announced it plans to deliver the vehicles for ride-hailing services in 2021.
Can you just imagine using Siri or Amazon's Alexa to send a driver-less car to pick up the kids from school or soccer practice? It's not easy to get that picture in my head just yet.
Ford's next generation autonomous production vehicle is loaded with cameras, sensors, lasers and other safety features which would allow a computer to navigate traffic and avoid any dangers.
"We have 6 cameras in our new integrated roof rack and a 7th camera right under the windshield; we need that to do color detection on traffic lights," said Helen Kourous, a research engineer on Ford's autonomous vehicle project.
"If we see a point cloud in front of the vehicle we are able to classify what that object is and it helps us predict its behavior. Is it a bush? Is it a pedestrian? Is it a bicycle?"
Ford demonstrated what the vehicle 'sees' with a large screen monitor hanging above the car on display. The image looks like a cross between a weather radar and infra-red signal. The cameras detected all movement around it and could identify human figures far away from it in front and behind.
In the latest production vehicle the Ford Fusion Hybrid had a steering wheel and two buttons on the dash. One button will stop the vehicle while the other allows for a passenger to turn off autonomy and take control of the steering themselves.
"In 2021 it will not have a steering wheel or pedals," Kourous said. "Fully level 4 autonomy; no human involvement at all."
Ford is testing its autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid in Flat Rock, Michigan. Its plan is to deliver fully autonomous vehicles for ride hailing services by 2021.