Ford Claims New LiDAR Device Will Make Its Self Driving Cars Best In The World


During his presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las ┬áVegas on Tuesday, Ford CEO Mark Fields said his company would use a new light and radar sensing device (LiDAR) developed by Silicon Valley technology company Velodyne to make its self driving cars the best in the world. The biggest feature of the Velodyne device is its small size. Previously, Google and others have used LiDAR devices that look like the gumball machines found on the roofs of police cars in the 60s’. Velodyne’s device is small enough to mount on the side view mirrors of a car but powerful enough to “see” 200 meters farther than previous LiDAR devices.

Velodyne Ultra Puck for self driving cars

According to The Verge, the new sensor has been dubbed the “Ultra Puck.” Fields told his audience that it is “elegant in design, but will make a huge impact in advanced autonomous technology.” The Ultra Puck will allow self driving cars to create a real-time 3 dimensional map of their surroundings. The Velodyne device will enhance Ford’s software development and testing and allow it to handle a broader range of driving scenarios.

Ford currently has 10 autonomous driving cars on the road in California, Arizona and Michigan. It plans to increase the size of its testing fleet to 30 cars this year by equipping several Ford Fusion Hybrid sedans with the Velodyne LiDAR sensors. For its part, Tesla Motors does not use LiDAR sensors extensively, preferring to rely on cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors. Elon Musk has said he is “not a big fan of LiDAR.” He might have reason to change his mind if the Velodyne Ultra Puck is as good as Ford says it is.

One thing Mark Fields was expected to do at CES this year but did not was to announce a partnership between itself and Google to build self driving cars. We reported that story last week and were reminded by readers that it was just an unconfirmed rumor. As of this moment, it remains just that, an unconfirmed rumor. Fields did hint there was more news coming about new technology and partnerships, but did not specifically mention Google by name.

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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • Raphael Sturm

    So its not really Ford, but Velodyne?

    • Steve Hanley

      Hmmmm….good point. Don’t believe Ford has exclusive rights to the technology, any more than Tesla has exclusive rights to NVIDIA technology.

      Manufacturers now make less of their own stuff and buy more from suppliers. Outside companies make virtually the entire interior, motors, batteries, glass, wheels, tires, brakes and so on.

      What the manufacturers primarily do is put it all together in a way that complies with all applicable international, national, state, regional, and local regulations. ; – )

      • Raphael Sturm

        Well, Tesla, Google, or Mercedes have special Software, wich makes them think their concepts are superior. Ford just has special sensors, which apparently anyone could buy. Its like saying I am a good chef, because I bought a very nice oven. Its how the oven is used, not the existence of an oven.

        • AtomX

          I like that analogy. But at the same time Ford may be like AT&T with the iPhone when it first came out. Exclusive hardware produced by a 3rd party perhaps? Like Seiger and Dell back in the 90’s.

          • Raphael Sturm

            Could be, still, I don’t think the race to autonomous driving isn’t won by third party sensors. Especially if Google would decide to buy this company, if it isn’t owned by Ford. And Google could outspend Ford by farther than far