Ford Adds Off-Road Cruise Control to F-150 Raptor Pickup

Ford is taking its autonomous vehicle technology off the beaten path, offering an off-road cruise control feature on its upgraded 2019 Ford F-150 Raptor pick-up truck.

Trail Control allows drivers to set the speed up to 20 mph and works in all three of the vehicle’s four-wheel drive modes.

The advance driver assistance system (ADAS) feature helps drivers navigate difficult terrain and can alert drivers to set Trail Control to get unstuck in sand — each wheel then automatically helps to dig out the truck.

Trail Control is also designed to help overcome steep inclines and other obstacles by automatically directing torque to each wheel, then braking to bring the truck down on the other side.

Ford fans can test out the tech on the upgraded Raptor this year, and Trail Control also will be available on the all-new 2019 Ranger truck early next year.

Across the pond, Jaguar Land Rover is also developing off-road, self-driving SUVs through a venture called Cortex — a $5 million project designed to explore all-terrain, and all-weather autonomous vehicle capabilities.

The company is deploying 5D technology to enable Level 4 and 5 off-road automation, which means the SUV would be able to adapt to sudden changes with equal or greater ability as a human driver would.

Combining acoustic, video, radar, light detection and distance sensing through Lidar — this is the 5D technique — data is uploaded and processed in real time, improving the vehicle’s awareness of its environment.

Last month, WaveSense, a startup founded by MIT graduates, announced the launch of a self-driving vehicle navigation system based on ground-penetrating radar (GPR), which the company claims can greatly improve navigation on all roads, even in poor weather conditions.

Thanks to researchers at the institute’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), self-driving vehicles of the future could rely less on detailed maps and more on fine-tuned sensors to bring drivers down roads less traveled.

This year, the CSAIL lab team developed a navigation framework called MapLite, which gives up 3D maps in favor of a more minimalist system requiring only a rough roadmap like the one found in any consumer GPS system, and using its onboard sensors to then navigate the roads.

As an automaker, Ford is investing into facilities designed to develop and test AV technology as the market prepares for the gradual introduction of more advanced self-driving cars, trucks and buses.

In Michigan, Ford is bringing the state’s shuttered Central Station in Detroit’s Corktown district back to life as a center for self-driving and electrified-vehicle development, following the building’s purchase by the carmaker.

Ford plans to make Corktown the headquarters of its autonomous and electric vehicle businesses, which are developing technologies for smart and connected vehicles and allied infrastructure.

Among the company’s most advanced concepts is a technology for autonomous vehicles that could have come straight out of Blade Runner, applying for a patent for a self-driving car that could summon a drone to the vehicle and take over navigation.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.


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