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Ford develops bug-resistant self-driving car

A car windshield covered in dead bugs
Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/picture alliance/Getty Images

Having bug guts smeared across your windshield affects visibility, so Ford has developed a self-driving car that's insect-proof.

Why it matters: Self-driving car sensors have the same problem as other vehicles. Dirt, dust, road salt — and yes, insects — can obscure an autonomous vehicle's sensors. An AV that can't clearly "see" its environment won't perform as well.

To better understand its nemesis, Ford consulted with zoologist Mark Hostetler, author of "That Gunk on Your Car," and then built a makeshift bug launcher to fire insects at its sensors, according to a Medium post by Ford engineer Venky Krishnan.

The engineering solution was two-fold:

  1. Air is funneled through slots near the camera in the car's rooftop "tiara" — the funny-looking structure that houses an AV's cameras and lidar systems — deflecting bugs "like changing the course of an asteroid on a crash-course with Earth," says Krishnan.
  2. For those pesky cling-ons, a cleaning system controlled by software algorithms sprays dirty sensors with washer fluid as needed and then gives them a quick blow dry.