With autonomous driving soon to be a common feature in cars, Ford is ensuring that its vehicles are capable of operating in any weather condition, including winter. And these Ford Fusion Hybrid research vehicles are part of that initiative.

To operate in snow, the car first needs to scan the environment to create high-resolution 3D digital maps. This is done by driving the test route in ideal weather, where the car’s four LiDAR scanners, which generates a total of 2.8 million laser points a second, map out the car’s surroundings.

The data will serve as baseline that the car will use to identify its current position while in autonomous mode. The LiDAR scanners assist the car in locating itself within the earlier mapped area, even when the road is covered in snow. All told, the car collects up to 600 gigabytes per hour to create the high-res 3D maps.

Ford Conducts Industry-First Snow Tests of Autonomous Vehicles

Thanks to a specially-developed algorithm, the car’s LiDAR sensors are capable of identifying snowflakes and raindrops, which prevents the car from having the false impression that there is an obstacle in the way. Furthermore, Ford’s autonomous vehicles are capable of precisely locating themselves to within a centimetre, far more accurate than a GPS system.

Ford say that it is the first automaker to publicly demonstrate autonomous vehicle operation in the snow. The demonstration was done at the University of Michigan, aimed at supporting the company’s mission to learn about and advance the developing field of autonomous driving.