Ford’s autonomous car to debut in California roads; Corning Glass windshield coming in 2016

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Manufacturers working on autonomous driving vehicles in California that want to test these vehicles on the streets need to enroll in the California Autonomous Vehicle Testing Program. And as of December 3, 2015, Ford Motor Co. has officially been enrolled in the program, along with Volkswagen Group of America, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Delphi Automotive, Tesla Motors, Bosch, Nissan, Cruise Automation, BMW and Honda.

If autonomous vehicles get into an accident, the program requires the participants to provide the DMV with a Report of Traffic Accident Involving an Autonomous Vehicle (form OL 316) within 10 business days of the incident.

By 2016, citizens will see Ford Fusion sedans roaming the streets of California that have a weird contraption bolted to its roof. The contraption is a sensor bar loaded with Velodyne LiDAR scanners packed with lasers and detectors that work together to make sense of its surroundings. Aside from the LiDAR scanners, it also features optical cameras, all working together to make a 3D map of its surroundings.

The tricked-out sedan features a red button that acts as a kill switch, a yellow button that allows the car to revert back to being driven by humans and a remapped transition shift that activates self-driving function when moved to “L.” Most of the brains of the operations are placed in the trunk, such as a cluster of five Intel i7 chips running Ubuntu Linux. The design is rough, but most of these will probably change once the design and the technology has been finalized for production.

It should be noted, though, that despite allowing autonomous cars on California roads, the DMV in California is proposing that these vehicles still have a driver behind the wheel who could take over if needed and would be the one answering to road traffic violations. Another stipulation of the proposal is that autonomous vehicle manufacturers would subject their vehicles to third-party tests, as well as apply for a three-year permit that would allow them to lease these vehicles to consumers but not sell them.

Google was not too happy with this proposal, as it “falls short on allowing this technology to reach its full potential while excluding those who need to get around but cannot drive.”

Revamped windshield

Ford has not only been busy with its autonomous car project, as it has teamed up with Corning, Inc. to incorporate its popular Gorilla Glass on the Ford GT.

According to reports, the special type of Gorilla Glass that will be used on the ford GT is 30 percent lighter, stronger, clearer and more durable compared to the usual glass used for the vehicle.

“Ford is the first automotive company to adopt this technology,” said Corning CEO Wendell Weeks, but Ford knows that others will soon follow. Weeks added that it is excited to introduce this “game-changing technology to the market.”

Ford demonstrated the strength of the glass by firing a 1.75-inch hail ball from a canon at 55 miles per hour and proved that it does not easily shatter. But for emergency responders, the glass is still breakable using their powered extraction tool.

Making the glass parts of the Ford GT lighter will help it accelerate and brake faster, not to mention consuming less fuel.

This is not the first time Gorilla Glass was used in cars. Back in the early ’90s, 100 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda racing cars used earlier versions of Gorilla Glass. It wasn’t until 2005 that experimentation was revived and Gorilla Glass was used in consumer electronics and is now a used in billions of smartphones and tablets.

Photo by marco_ely