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Business Management

Spiked with LIDAR sensors, Ford research car tracks objects and creates 3D maps

Four spinning LIDAR sensors rise like spikes out of the roof of the car. They can see everything in a 200-foot surrounding area and turn all detected objects into a 3D map. They sit atop Ford's Automated Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle, revealed by Ford on Thursday as the star player in the company's ongoing exploration of future smart technologies for cars.

The retail Ford Fusion is already one of the techiest cars on the road today, but the current version has nothing on this specially tricked-out ride.

The Automated Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle's LIDAR sensors scan the road 2.5 million times per second and can interpret reflections within 200 feet of the vehicle. The data can be used to create a three-dimensional map of the immediate area.

Ford said the maps could be used to help plan routes and determine current location. The company also suggested that, in the future, such maps could be preinstalled or downloadable for daily driving.

The vehicle also has an omnidirectional, spherical camera that can take photographs of the car's surroundings, for a more comprehensive view than the human eye could ever achieve.

Ford emphasized that the research vehicle is not a driverless car. "It's capable of automated operation under the supervision of a human driver," said Raj Nair, Group Vice President of Global Product Development for Ford. Nair said the goal of the car's research was to reduce human error and driver workload, especially as drivers get older and need more assistance.

Would you buy a car that could do all this? That's what Ford's hoping--and also one of its partners in the endeavor, State Farm automotive insurance. "What if buying a new and better car could lower your insurance premiums?" Ford's Nair asked. Yeah, I can see where this is going. But it's pretty neat anyway.

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