If you don’t enjoy driving in the dark, Ford’s latest autonomous car tests will cheer you up. The company’s announced that it’s been successfully testing its cars at nighttime, a scenario that brings its own set of fairly obvious challenges for self-driving vehicles.
Autonomous cars use a wide range of sensors to navigate, including cameras—which are obviously pretty useless at night time. But they do also use lidar sensors, which—while they can be fooled by snow and rain—work well in the dark. Ford shows that to be case in this video, shot at its Arizona proving ground. In these tests, the car uses lidar sensors to determine its position on a prior map, allowing it to navigate a test track without its headlights switched on.
It’s arguably a more impressive-sounding achievement than it is in reality: This is the kind of task that an autonomous car should be good at, while avoiding humans and random events on the roads is a rather more difficult task. But it is a reminder of how self-driving cars will make journeys of the future a little more safe, taking some rather weighty responsibilities—like peering into the dark to make out obstacles—out of human hands.