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MIT teams up with Ford to help build self-driving vehicles

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  January 22, 2014 05:28 PM

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MIT is teaming up with Ford to help the automaker build self-driving vehicles, the company announced Wednesday.

“To deliver on our vision for the future of mobility, we need to work with many new partners across the public and private sectors, and we need to start today,” said a statement from Paul Mascarenas, chief technical officer and vice president of research and innovation at Ford.

Along with MIT, the company announced it is also partnering with Stanford University to work on projects aimed at researching and developing solutions to some of the “technical challenges surrounding automated driving.”

“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,” Mascarenas said.

The company said automated driving technology is a key component of its Blueprint for Mobility, “which outlines what transportation will look like in 2025 and beyond, along with the technologies, business models and partnerships needed to get there.”

“Ford is exploring potential solutions for the longer-term societal, legislative and technological issues posed by a future of fully automated driving,” the company said.

In December, the company revealed its automated Fusion Hybrid research vehicle and announced other partners, including the University of Michigan and State Farm insurance.

The company said the research vehicle has four LiDAR sensors to generate a real-time 3D map of the vehicle’s surrounding environment.

“While the vehicle can sense objects around it using the LiDAR sensors, Ford’s research with MIT uses advanced algorithms to help the vehicle learn to predict where moving vehicles and pedestrians could be in the future,” the company said. “This scenario planning provides the vehicle with a better sense of the surrounding risks, enabling it to plan a path that will safely avoid pedestrians, vehicles and other moving objects.”

“Working with Stanford, Ford is exploring how the sensors could see around obstacles,” the company added. “Typically, when a driver’s view is blocked by an obstacle like a big truck, the driver will maneuver within the lane to take a peek around it and see what is ahead. Similarly, this research would enable the sensors to “take a peek ahead” and make evasive maneuvers if needed. For example, if the truck ahead slammed on its brakes, the vehicle would know if the area around it is clear to safely change lanes.”

Greg Stevens, global manager for driver assistance and active safety at Ford said the company’s goal is to create a vehicle “with common sense.”

“Drivers are good at using the cues around them to predict what will happen next, and they know that what you can’t see is often as important as what you can see,” he said in a statement. “Our goal in working with MIT and Stanford is to bring a similar type of intuition to the vehicle.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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