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Ford Announces Public Transport Optimization Project with MIT

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one of the three on-demand electric vehicles Ford is contributing to the MIT project

one of the three on-demand electric vehicles Ford is contributing to the MIT project

A new collaboration between Ford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looks to improve efficiency for public transportation in urban areas by reconfiguring aspects based on the way pedestrians move.

The project will set a fleet of on-demand electric vehicles lose on MIT’s Cambridge-based campus as shuttles, utilizing LiDAR and complex camera systems to learn and ultimately predict the flow of pedestrian traffic. The information gathered by these shuttles will then be utilized to determine which areas need more coverage and how to better optimize routes.

Other information that will be taken into account during the trial includes weather, class schedules, and any unique trends that may arise during different semesters.

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“The onboard sensors and cameras gather pedestrian data to estimate the flow of foot traffic,” said Ken Washington, vice president of Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford. “This helps us develop efficient algorithms that bring together relevant data. It improves mobility-on-demand services, and aids ongoing pedestrian detection and mapping efforts for autonomous vehicle research.”

The program is set to kick off next month, at which point students and faculty involved in the project will be able to use a mobile app to call for one of the three vehicles whenever they are in need. MIT’s research is being conducted by the Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s Aerospace Controls Lab, which specializes in autonomous systems for vehicles both on the ground, in the air, and in outer space.

“Through the mobility-on-demand system being developed for MIT’s campus, ACL can investigate new planning and prediction algorithms in a complex, but controlled, environment, while simultaneously providing a testbed framework for researchers and a service to the MIT community,” said ACL director Professor Jonathan How.

The smart mobility collaboration between MIT and Ford is just the latest in more than 30 similar projects involving the automaker and universities across the globe.

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