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Ford Solved Bug Issue for Self-Driving Car Lenses


Sep. 5 2019, Published 11:29 a.m. ET

Ford Motor Company (F) has advanced engineering technology. The company resolved an issue with bugs hitting the lenses in self-driving cars. Ford has more than 50 patents in cleaning and structural systems in autonomous vehicles. As a result, Ford fixed the issue with bugs impacting autonomous cars’ maneuvering capabilities.

Bugs hit windshields and impact visibility in traditional cars. The bug issue could be amplified in autonomous vehicles. Notably, electric vehicles rely on cameras and lenses. Ford resolved the problem by providing two solutions. The first solution is an “air curtain,” while the second solution is “washing fluid.”

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Ford’s air curtain

Ford went to great lengths to come up with the air curtain solution. The company consulted with a zoologist to understand insects’ behavior. The company also made a “bug launcher” to research how hard the insects could hit the car. Also, the company researched various methods to clean the car.

Ford finally decided to use “Tiara,” which is the house that holds cameras, LiDAR, and radar. Ford had Tiara blow air near the lens to create an “air curtain.” The air curtain acts as a dam to prevent bugs from reaching the sensor. The air curtain deflects the bugs away from the vehicle. Overall, the solution is a win-win solution for the car and the bugs. The car’s visibility isn’t impacted by dead bugs and the diverted bugs continue to live.

The air curtain keeps most bugs from hitting the sensors. However, some bugs get through. Ford created a second solution for the bugs that hit the camera lenses.

Ford’s washer fluid

The company’s second solution is simple—automatically washing the lens. Notably, the nozzles are designed around the lenses. The nozzles spray washer fluid when a bug hits the lens. Ford’s advanced algorithm system registers the dirty lens. The nozzle sprays washer fluid on the affected lens. Finally, Tiara releases air to dry the lens surface.

Ford is confident that the solutions will be effective. Venky Krishnan, Ford’s autonomous vehicle systems core supervisor, said, “Needless to say, a great deal of engineering work is being put into ensuring our systems are as safe, extremely quick, capable and precise as possible.”

He also said, “Just as we must equip self-driving vehicles with the brains to process what’s happening in their environment, we must also equip them with the tools to deal with that environment — no matter what kind of gunk it decides to throw at them.”

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Focus on autonomous cars

Ford is continuously working to make better autonomous cars. The company’s bug solution is a step in that direction. Ford plans to produce SAE Level 4 self-driving cars by 2021. The company thinks that the demand for autonomous vehicles will be so high that it will be replaced in almost four years.

Ford, with its Ford Smart Mobility, plans to tap the growing transportation services market. The company aims to become a leader in the autonomous car space. Ford plans to integrate the self-driving system from Agro AI into its vehicles in the US and Europe. The company’s autonomous vehicles won’t have a steering wheel, gas pedal, or brake pedal. The cars will have geo-fenced areas for ride-sharing services.

Tesla (TSLA) is also working to launch the Tesla Network, which will enable autonomous cars’ ride-sharing services. General Motors’ (GM) arm, GM Cruise is also investing heavily to launch its autonomous vehicles commercially. The company is still testing the cars. The company delayed the launch beyond 2019. Alphabet’s (GOOGL) (GOOG) Waymo is launching robotaxis. NVIDIA (NVDA) is also investing heavily in the autonomous cars segment.

Companies in the US are also working to meet government safety regulations for self-driving cars. They asked the government to update the laws. To learn more, read US Companies Urge for Relaxed Autonomous Car Regs.


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