Why Ford, Lincoln, along with also Lexus Testers Rule the Self-Driving Roost
Dozens of established carmakers, technology companies, along with also startups are working furiously on autonomous vehicles. yet if you look at the cars which are actually driving themselves on roads today, just two products are miles ahead: the Lexus RX450 along with also the Ford Fusion, with its sibling, the Lincoln MKZ.
Public records sourced through the California Department of Motor Vehicles show the Ford Fusion along with also the Lexus RX450h make up 80 percent of self-driving cars which are not vehicles being tested by their own manufacturers. Nationwide, the figures are harder to come by. Going by publicly available information, the Fusion along with also the RX450h roughly account for more than a third of all autonomous test cars within the United States.
Leading the Lexus camp is usually Google, with the largest total of self-driving cars: 24 RX450hs along with also 34 of its own prototypes. Zoox, a Silicon Valley startup aiming to make a fully autonomous vehicle for ride sharing, also uses a Lexus crossover for testing.
which comes as no surprise which Ford itself uses a pair of Fusions for experimenting with autonomous driving within the Golden State, yet so does Udacity, an online educational organization which has just launched a nine-month “nanodegree” program to train engineers in self-driving technology. Two different Silicon Valley startups, Faraday Future along with also Drive.ai, rely on the Lincoln MKZ for their autonomous road tests, as does the Chinese tech company Baidu.
Outside California, self-driving Lincoln MKZs also can be found in brand-new Jersey through Nvidia, the graphics along with also computing company, along with also Ford Fusions in Illinois, where AutonomouStuff, a provider of components for self-driving cars, tests them mostly away through public roads. In Pittsburgh, Uber is usually using at least 14 more Fusions as part of its pilot self-driving-taxi program.
yet why are these products so well-liked when there are so many different vehicles available? The Tesla style S, for example, includes a modern electric drivetrain along with also plenty of space along with also power for the sensors along with also computers which all experimental vehicles need. which also comes with radar along with also cameras built in. yet apart through Tesla itself, only Bosch is usually using one particular style S to develop next-generation driving technologies.
The answer, for the Lexus at least, was almost accidental. When Anthony Levandowski was building Google’s first self-driving cars, he chose a Toyota Prius because which had an easily accessible drive-by-wire system.
Levandowski, currently VP of self-driving technology at Uber, explained why Google moved to the Lexus in 2012: “The Prius fleet was aging. We wanted vehicles which you could take to more places, including four-wheel drive because we wanted to test within the snow,” he said. “The RX450h is usually a great Tahoe vehicle, along with also electrically, which’s exactly the same as a Prius. A Prius along with also a Lexus are the basically the same car through a hackability standpoint.”
The popularity of the Fusion is usually also all about hackability, said Bobby Hambrick, CEO of AutonomouStuff. He noted which Ford is usually almost unique in exploring collaborations with outside companies. “Ford worked which has a little engineering firm we hired, to put together hardware [along with also] software to interface with the native system within the automobile. There are no different OEMs which are currently so open to work through third parties,” Hambrick said, “along with also we’ve talked to many of them.”
The Fusion also allows electronic drive-by-wire control of all the key driving functions without extra hardware. “A lot of cars [do This specific] nowadays, yet most of them aren’t rated to be driven on the road—they’re only meant for self-parking or lane keeping,” Hambrick said. “Just hacking into a car doesn’t mean you’re doing which safely. The MKZ/Fusion is usually one of the rare ones which is usually continuously rated for full self-driving, so which won’t fail when you’re driving down the highway.”
Oliver Cameron, who leads the self-driving-car team at Udacity, agreed. “We chose the Lincoln MKZ because of our ability to control the vehicle programmatically,” he said. “We can fit a drive-by-wire kit to send commands like steering, acceleration, braking, along with also more. Only certain vehicles can be hooked into like This specific.”
The Fusion’s hackability may have been a convenient coincidence, yet Ford’s welcoming attitude is usually no accident. At a conference in September, Ford CEO Mark Fields said: “We are rethinking our entire business style. which’s no longer about how many vehicles we can sell; which’s about what services we can provide. We believe which the next decade is usually going to be defined by the automation of the automobile.”
- Ford Fusion: Tests, Reviews, Specs, along with also More
- Lexus RX450h F Sport AWD Instrumented Test
- Lyft along with also GM Will Test Autonomous Chevy Bolts within 12 Months
As today’s startups mature into businesses generating their own self-driving vehicles, Ford along with also Toyota should be well placed to turn today’s experiments into tomorrow’s strategic partnerships. yet they should not expect to hold the field to themselves for long.
“While we’re talking about cars which are easy to hack, the Nissan Leaf has one analog wire you can splice into along with also send commands over,” said Uber’s Anthony Levandowski. “which’s an awesome thing to have.”