Sep 11, 2019

Ford develops bug-resistant self-driving car

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.

Go deeper

Tech's talent war forces self-driving car companies to get creative

Software designers can work almost anywhere, but writing code for a self-driving car tends to be a hands-on exercise — engineers need to directly experience how a vehicle performs and hone software as needed.

The big picture: Companies that design autonomous vehicles are maturing and beginning to rethink that convention. There's a war for talent across all tech industries, requiring AV companies to get creative to attract the top experts.

Go deeperArrowSep 13, 2019

Ford's self-driving cars roll into Texas

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ford is bringing self-driving cars to Austin, Texas — its third launch city — but says it'll take at least 2 years to figure out how they'll be used and how to make money from them.

The big picture: Ford and its technology partner, Argo AI, are taking a different tack from most other AV companies, which tend to focus on a single launch market.

Go deeperArrowSep 25, 2019

Simulations could have real-world impact on decongesting city streets

Ford technicians study City Insights Studio. Photo courtesy of Ford

As cities get more crowded, companies are developing SimCity-like software that help urban planners plot better transportation networks.

Why it matters: These software programs enable communities to visualize the movement of people and goods around their city and develop solutions to reduce congestion and improve safety.

Go deeperArrowOct 4, 2019