While Google's futuristic driverless pods are taking the limelight when it comes to autonomous motoring, Ford has been just as busy. And now it has release footage of its vehicles navigating around an artificial city without any human input.
Using a new Mondeo covered in cameras and sensors, Ford has demonstrated how its technology can drive a car around a city centre while obeying traffic lights, looking out for other drivers and pedestrians, and generally not crashing. Ford is the first car manufacturer to use Mcity, a new 32-acre test facility at the University of Michigan.
The video shows the car navigating itself around the mocked up city, obeying traffic lights and requiring no input from two developers sat inside.
By including real roads lined with artificial shop fronts, Mcity can be used as a safe but realistic environment for testing autonomous cars beyond the boundaries of what is possible, and legal, on public roads. Here, researchers can teach autonomous cars how to react in unusual circumstances, such as when other motorists drive through red lights.
Based on a hybrid Mondeo (sold as the Fusion in the US), the Ford research vehicle was first revealed in 2013 and has evolved to include cameras, radar, sensors and real-time 3D mapping to work out where it is and look out for obstacles and other vehicles.
At Mcity, Ford can also test the car on a variety of road surfaces, including concrete, asphalt, brick and dust. Also, manoeuvres on two, three and four-lane roads, ramps, roundabouts and tunnels can be carried out.
Ford says it is now in the "advanced engineering" stage of fully autonomous vehicle development, adding it is now faced with "creating sensing and computing technologies that are feasible for production while continuing to test and refine algorithms".
Ryan Eustice, an associate professor from University of Michigan, said: "The goal of Mcity is that we get a scaling factor. Every mile driven there can represent 10, 100 or 1,000 miles of on-road driving in terms of our ability to pack in the occurrences of difficult events."