Ford equipping autonomous vehicles to keep bugs away

Ford equipping self-driving vehicles to keep bugs away
Ford is equipping its autonomous vehicles with an air funneling system that deflects bugs away. The system can also sense a dirty camera lens (top) and direct spray nozzles to clean it (bottom).

For years, insects have been getting struck by and stuck on cars, whether they be on the windshield, the headlamps, or grill. Ford Motor Company is trying to alleviate this problem on its autonomous vehicles by utilizing the “tiara”, the structure atop the vehicles that houses all the navigation apparatus, to direct insects away.

Ford engineers designed the tiara to funnel air out through different slots near the camera lens. This creates an “air curtain” that actually deflects bugs away from the sensor itself. In trials, Ford found that the “air curtain” successfully diverted the vast majority of insects away from the vehicle’s self-driving sensors.

Because camera lenses often get dirty, Ford also integrated a cleaning system into the tiara. Next-generation nozzles next to each camera lens can spray washer fluid as needed to clean the sensors. Using advanced software algorithms that help the self-driving vehicles determine when a sensor is dirty, the cleaning system can specifically hone in on dirty camera lenses (whether it’s just one dirty lens or several), efficiently cleaning each one individually without wasting washer fluid on already-clean sensors.

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After a sensor has been sprayed down, the tiara releases air through a slot which quickly “dries” the face of the lens.

The researchers tested the system by driving it through the Huron-Manistee National Forests in western Michigan. This system has also been installed on Ford’s self-driving test vehicles now hitting the streets in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Miami-Dade County and Washington, D.C.

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