Autonomous Driving: Ford Collaborates With MIT, Stanford

Moving forward with autonomous driving research.

The Ford Motor Company is working with a pair of university partners as it commits to advancing its research on autonomous driving. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will be handling scenario planning in an effort to forecast the actions of other vehicles and pedestrians. Stanford University researchers will help Ford learn how a vehicle might maneuver to permit its sensors to look around obstacles. Both projects are part of Fords Blueprint for Mobility initiative that looks beyond 2025 to see where autonomous driving and advanced technologies might impact transportation.

Autonomous Driving: Ford Fusion Hybrid

A team of Ford Fusion Hybrids outfitted with autonomous equipment.

Autonomous Driving Projects

Ford’s latest technology announcement follows and builds on its automated Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle that rolled out last month. Automated driving falls under Fords mobility blueprint, what will help the automaker determine the business models and partnerships it will need to reach its goals. The automaker anticipates that it will need to collaborate with many new partners across the public and private sectors, something it intends to begin immediately with the help of its academic partners.

Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and Vice President, Ford research and innovation said, “Working with university partners like MIT and Stanford enables us to address some of the longer-term challenges surrounding automated driving while exploring more near-term solutions for delivering an even safer and more efficient driving experience.”

The Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicle is based on technologies the automaker uses today and makes available to its customers. It then added four LIght Detection And Ranging (LiDAR) sensors to produce a 3D map of the vehicles surroundings in actual time.

Autonomous Driving: Ford Fusion Hybrid

The University of Michigan and State Farm are also partnering with Ford.

MIT Partnership

Ford’s research with MIT will use advanced algorithms to determine where other vehicles and pedestrians might be in the future. It will build on existing LiDAR technology that is able to sense objects around the vehicle. The goal for Ford-MIT is to enhance the technology’s ability to map out a pathway that will safely avoid pedestrians, vehicles and other moving objects.

Stanford Partnership

Fords research with Stanford will examine how sensors might look around obstacles. The automaker builds on existing driver behavior such as when a large obstacle like a city bus blocks the drivers view. In such situations the driver might move around in the lane in a bid to get a clearer view. Working in similar fashion, Ford-Stanford are seeking ways for the sensors to mimic driver behavior and take evasive action as required. For instance, if the city bus ahead of the car suddenly braked, the autonomous vehicles sensors would scan the area to determine if it could quickly and safely make a lane change.

Autonomous Driving: LiDAR

Ford has tapped Velodyne for its LiDAR technology.


If it sounds as if the university researchers are attempting to inject some common sense into autonomous vehicle technology, youd be correct. Indeed, just as drivers have a sense for what is going around them while on the road and what actions to take, Ford and its research partners are seeking to attain similar intuitiveness with its autonomous vehicles.

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Photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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