Self-driving cars may soon be able to drive without the use of headlights after Ford tested Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology on one of their Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles. Conducted at Ford's Arizona Proving Ground, the automaker fitted the self-driving automobile with 3D mapping and LiDAR technology which helped guide the car in low-light conditions.

According to the automaker, self-driving cars are still reliant on cameras that require light and being able to see lane markings on the road.

“Thanks to LiDAR, the test cars aren’t reliant on the sun shining, nor cameras detecting painted white lines on the asphalt. In fact, LiDAR allows autonomous cars to drive just as well in the dark as they do in the light of day,” said Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles.

Self-driving Fusion Hybrid with LiDAR tech

With 3D mapping, the car was able to make a layout of the car's surrounding area including trees, roads markings, topography, buildings and signs. LiDAR, on the other hand, provided a grid of infrared lasers that surround the Fusion Hybrid. This allowed the car to scan the surrounding area, essentially acting as the car's eyes.

Ford engineers monitored the car's progress by sitting inside the Fusion Hybrid while using night-vision goggles. The devices also allowed the engineers to get to see how the LiDAR system worked in real time.

Ford engineers with their night-vision goggles

Ford is optimistic that with the help of LiDAR and 3D mapping, they will be able to produce cars that are capable of fully autonomous driving capability. As defined by SAE International Level 4, these kind of self-driving cars will not require the driver to intervene or take control of the wheel.

Apart from the test of new technology for their autonomous vehicles, Ford also announced that they will triple their fleet of self-driving cars – bringing the total amount to 30 Fusion Hybrid sedans. All cars will be tested on roads in California, Arizona and Michigan.