Ford & MIT collaborate to optimize LiDAR performance

The collaboration could result in significant cost cutting for future autonomous automated vehicles.

Despite the fact that Boston is home to both Uber and Lyft, students at MIT are pushing the research for on-demand ride sharing in Cambridge.

MIT and Ford have announced a new project that will allow students to shuttle around on campus, walkaways and on city streets in a fleet of electric vehicles so as to research the traffic patterns and optimize routes for the next generation of autonomous vehicles.

During the first phase of the project, which is set to launch in September, students will be in a position to hail rides in electric vehicles small enough to navigate sidewalks without throwing the rest of the foot traffic out of its way.

In these last five months, researchers have been busy gathering traffic foot data based on how pedestrians move around campus by using vehicles equipped with LiDAR sensors which are similar to those used by most autonomous cars.

By overlaying that data with other data, including weather conditions, class schedules, and “the dynamic habits of students and professors across different semesters,” the researchers were able to anticipate where to route and position the vehicles during the day.

Although, this model could help cut operational costs significantly, Ford it seems has another agenda: it wants to improve pedestrian detection in autonomous vehicle systems.

With optimized LiDAR performance, autonomous automated vehicles will need to rely on fewer cameras, which could again cut down costs and at the same time it could help the vehicles navigate denser pedestrian zones.

Ford’s aim is to essentially replace its human driven campus shuttles with autonomous ones.

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