Nov 16, 2018

Testing out Ford's autonomous vehicles

Ford's autonomous test vehicle in downtown Miami. Photo: Ford

This week I traveled to Miami for some seat time in Ford's autonomous test vehicles. I rode in 3 separate Ford Fusions, each with a different pair of safety drivers up front.

Details: The AV's safety drivers kept their hands and feet ready to react, but only once did they opt to take control.

  • At about 20 mph, the car was starting to change lanes to the right but aborted when it detected another car traveling up from behind at a higher speed.
  • It moved back into the current lane and let the other car pass on the right.
  • The driver then took control to execute a quick double-lane change to stay on the intended route.

Ford and its AV tech partner, Argo AI, are trying to master "naturalistic driving" — which means not being overly cautious so as to annoy other drivers. The cars mostly succeeded.

  • In one instance, the AV had to make an unprotected left turn across two lanes of heavy traffic.
  • The car waited for a natural gap to turn left, leaving just enough space for two more aggressive drivers to cut in front from the right, nosing into oncoming traffic.
  • It then waited until it was safe to turn, but then had to stop in the middle of the intersection to let pedestrians cross.
  • Behind us, a Miami driver laid on the horn.
  • The car? It was unfazed.

The bottom line: Miami's streets can be hectic and confusing, between random lane jogs, construction detours and occasional flash floods not to mention jaywalking tourists and wrong-way bicyclists. But all tests were relaxing, uneventful experiences, which says a lot about how close we're getting to the driverless car era.

Go deeper

Teenager killed after shots fired at protesters in Detroit

Detroit police during protests on Friday night. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

A 19-year-old man was killed on Friday night after shots were fired into a crowd of demonstrators in downtown Detroit who were protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, per AP.

Details: The teenager was injured when shots were fired from an SUV about 11:30 p.m. and later died in hospital, reports MDN reports, which noted police were still looking for a suspect. Police said officers were not involved in the shooting, according to AP.

Go deeper: In photos: Protesters clash with police nationwide over George Floyd

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Protesters clash with police nationwide over George Floyd

Police officers grapple with protesters in Atlanta. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray as the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd spread nationwide on Friday evening.

The big picture: Police responded in force in cities ranging from Atlanta to Des Moines, Houston to Detroit, Milwaukee to D.C. and Denver to Louisville. In Los Angeles, police declared a stretch of downtown off limits, with Oakland issuing a similar warning.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court sides with California on coronavirus worship service rules

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's liberal justices, to reject a challenge to California's pandemic restrictions on worship services.

Why it matters: This is a setback for those seeking to speed the reopening of houses of worship, including President Trump.