Ford Plans to Use Drones to Lend a Helping Hand to Broken-Down Autonomous Cars

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【Summary】If a sensor on your autonomous Ford fails, a drone could fly to the driverless machine and act as a temporary fix to help the vehicle limp to a service center.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Mar 22, 2018 9:00 AM PT
Ford Plans to Use Drones to Lend a Helping Hand to Broken-Down Autonomous Cars

Autonomous vehicles my change the way humans get from one point to another, but the cars are high-tech computers that could go wrong at any time. With various sensors, cameras, and radar systems on the exterior of the vehicle, debris, inclement weather, and accidents with other modes of transportation could drastically affect the way the vehicle operates. 

Ford Plans To Send Drones To The Rescue

Ford, though, has come up with an idea to fix the issue of having an autonomous vehicle with faulty sensors. According to The Drive, the American automaker recently applied for a patent that would see a drone be used to temporarily supplement a self-driving car's faulty sensors. 

Automakers are attempting to find ways to make driverless cars safer, which includes having a plan for when things go wrong. As Starsky Robotics found, autonomous vehicles can come to a halt in the middle of the road for numerous reasons. And while the start up's autonomous semi-truck was operating on a closed-off road, other self-driving cars will be driving right next to human operators, making it difficult to diagnose the problem and to find a fix. 

Ford's thought of that problem and has come up with a unique solution. As the outlet states, one of Ford's autonomous vehicles would recognize that it has a problem and use its vehicle-to-vehicle network to get a specialized drone to come to the rescue. Apparently, the drone would fly to the vehicle's destination, land on top of the autonomous vehicle, and allow its sensors to be used by the vehicle. That, as The Drive states, would allow the drone to act as a quick fix. 

The drone would assist the vehicle in heading directly to a repair center where a technician would be able to fix the issue. Once at the service area, the drone would unlatch itself from the car and return to its base. 

Would Drones Actually Work?

While this all sounds great, it's a peek into the far-off future. Various companies are using drones to deliver packages, as a helping hand, and to capture that perfect photo. At the moment, the longest unofficial drone flight lasted for two hours and six minutes. But that run didn't see the drone actually cover any ground, it just hovered above the ground, which means that in a real-life situation, it might not be able to fly for that long. 

Another issue, which The Drive brings up, is FAA regulations, which restrict drones from operating in certain areas. Let's say your car is in one of these no-fly zones, what then? And with all of the talk about hackers being able to get into an autonomous vehicle, how would you know if it's a repair drone from Ford or a well-done imitation from a hacker? 

But these are questions to something that isn't out yet. And this is just a patent, so there's no way of stating whether it would actually make its way into production anytime soon. Still, the idea of having drones that are able to help autonomous vehicles get to a repair shop when something goes wrong does sound like a good idea. 

via: The Drive

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