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What Passengers Found with Ford's First Driverless Car

September 23, 2016

What Passengers Found with Ford's First Driverless Car

Driverless cars have been a popular subject in the automotive world for years, and now, after years of research and development, many major auto manufacturers are beginning to come forward with prototypes. Ford is no different, and recently the manufacturer released its own driverless vehicle for a test drive. Not only did Ford provide drivers with a firsthand look at their model, but they also said that they believe, within five years, driverless vehicles could become readily available. The premise is that you can simply use an app on your phone to call a driverless vehicle to pick you up and take you directly where you want to go without any other human interaction.

Though it may seem like something coming straight out of a science fiction story, the fact is that this scenario is what many automakers hope to achieve in the future. With the competitive market's current goal set at driverless vehicles, Ford is working overtime to provide passengers and drivers with a safe option that can allow them to reach point B from point A safely and quickly. Several drivers already took the manufacturer's self-driving vehicle for a spin and were relatively pleased with the results.

Passengers remarked that although the vehicle drove smoothly and handled itself well on the road, the drive itself did feel uneventful. Though hailed as next generation technology, passengers found that even autonomous rides felt exactly like a normal car ride. This was pleasing to hear, as business as usual is very good news for a process that could result in a potential accident depending on the condition of the driver. The driverless vehicle testers had the opportunity to explore looked like an ordinary Fusion sedan. The vehicle was retrofitted with a high-tech LiDAR system and the advanced mapping system necessary to allow the car to drive completely automatically.

Though early models focused on using radars and cameras, the brand new LiDAR system is designed to take regular real-time 3D scans of the active surrounding terrain. This mapping process allows the vehicle to see and interpret the streets and driving patterns around it. This is achieved through the spinning disks on the car's roof, which are designed to transmit the information to the vehicle's computers, allowing the systems to sense everything that passengers already see. Because of the advanced algorithm process, the vehicle is able to drive without using any lane markings, signage systems, or even other vehicles to follow. This spells a tremendous step up from the Tesla's autopilot mode.

Though the presence of the technology was impressive, perhaps the most refreshing part of the test process was that passengers did not seem affected by the experience entirely. Testers remarked that the drive felt like one of the best taxi rides they have ever taken, simply because of how peaceful and smooth the ride itself was. One tester remarked that the drive felt like any ordinary ride in a sedan, though with a smoother and safer driver. There was no jerkiness to the vehicle's motions and all of the turns and accelerations were done seamlessly. 

If passengers had any complaints, it was that the car's auto-driving system felt a little overcautious on the road. The software is designed to visualize any threat before it has the chance to manifest, so it is easy to see why these cars may take extra precautions to ensure that the drive is a safe one. Overall, the positive results of the driving experience may lend well to future developments, as manufacturers found the test data they needed to prepare their vehicles for future human use.