Ford and MIT teach EVs how to find high-demand locations

Ford has teamed up with MIT on a project that will, among other things, help electric shuttles determine current levels of demand among pedestrians, as well as determine which locations have the highest demand in any given moment. The electric vehicles are equipped with both LiDAR and what Ford calls inexpensive cameras; the EVs will eventually operate on both MIT's Cambridge campus and on public city roads.

The technology aims to help improve both shuttle services and other publication transportation options like ride-hailing services. The cameras and sensors are used to gather data on foot traffic flow among pedestrians and algorithms will use this data for various purposes in the future, including ones of the autonomous persuasion. For now, the MIT research is happening with the Aeronautics and Astronauts Department's Aerospace Controls Lab.

The aforementioned EVs will rollout on the MIT campus this upcoming September; they'll be relatively small so as to allow for regular pedestrian traffic, and will be weatherproofed for less-than-ideal weather. Students will be able to hail the EV using a mobile app; the EV will arrive at their location, then take them to some other point on the campus. A total of three EVs will be deployed.

Though only three shuttles will be available, the prediction system will help ensure the EVs are where demand is highest at any given time, keeping wait times to a minimum. The predictions will be based in part on data gathered at the campus using both cameras and LiDAR for five months. According to Ford, the technology it is using is more accurate than GPS.