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Argo AI Begins Testing Self-Driving Fords in Detroit

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【Summary】Ford and Argo AI’s partnership passed another milestone, as the brands announced that self-driving vehicles would begin testing in Detroit.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 16, 2019 6:00 AM PT
Argo AI Begins Testing Self-Driving Fords in Detroit

When it comes to traditional automakers looking toward the autonomous future, Ford isn't on the best foot. That changed when the American automaker bought a major stake into the Pittsburgh-based artificial-intelligence company. The partnership between the two companies continues to blossom, as the latest version of the brands' self-driving car has hit Detroit.

New Cars For Testing In A New City

The latest set of autonomous vehicles signifies Argo AI's third generation of prototypes and is based on the Ford Fusion Hybrid. These new self-driving cars are fitted with Argo AI's latest tech, including an upgraded suite of sensors, new computers, and more advanced redundancies that have been programmed into the vehicle. The redundancies are a first for Argo AI's test cars and specifically provide backup for the vehicles' steering and braking systems.

Beyond the new redundancies, the self-driving cars have upgraded LiDAR units and cameras, the latter of which have more dynamic range and a higher resolution. This has been done to ensure that the vehicles can detect objects at longer distances and in challenging lighting and weather conditions. Lastly, new sensors on the front fender of the vehicle are now in the mix, too.

With Detroit now on the list for places to test, Argo AI has expanded to a total of five U.S. cities. The company is already testing vehicles in Miami, Pittsburgh, Palo Alto, and Washington, D.C. In Detroit, people will be able to spot the new vehicles in Corktown and around Campus Martius. The new fleet of Fusion Hybrids will replace the company's existing fleet of roughly 100 vehicles.  

Detroit is an interesting place to test autonomous vehicles, because the city poses a lot of difficult tasks for self-driving cars. The roads aren't especially grid like, nor are they well paved, and the city gets a massive amount of snowfall every year. Between the bad weather, terrible roads, and construction, Detroit sure does pose a challenge. That, though, is a good thing for Argo AI.

Why Test In Detroit?

"For instance, the Motor City really earns its name by offering an astounding diversity of road types," said Peter Rander, President of Argo AI. "Unlike Washington, D.C. and its common traffic circles or Pittsburgh and its famous multi-point intersections, Detroit roads don't have a singular defining feature – the city and its metro area contain all of these and more, with almost every kind of road you can expect to see."

With Volkswagen's recent investment in Argo AI, the three companies are in a good position to bring autonomous vehicles to the road. The actual autonomous cars, though, probably won't be sedans like the cars that are driving around major cities. They'll probably be commercial vehicles that will focus on transporting goods or people from point A to point B. If there's one way to take on Waymo and it's massive lead, it'll be through partnerships, and this one between the three are poised to be a real competitor. The first autonomous vehicle from Argo AI and Ford, and possibly VW, is expected to come out in 2021.

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