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Argo gives its self-driving vehicle hardware a big upgrade


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Argo’s Ford Escape self-driving test vehicles aren’t exactly graceful-looking.


Argo

Argo has been working on its self-driving car platform for a while now alongside its partners Ford and Volkswagen, and in that time, it’s made some decent progress. Now though, it’s ready to move to the next level, and to do that, it’s created an updated suite of hardware, according to its Friday announcement.

This hardware’s claim to fame is that it’s much closer to “automotive-grade,” which, according to Argo’s release, means that it’s “hardware built to withstand extreme thermal conditions and maintain structural integrity over time,” and it can be manufactured in volume. How is this different from Argo’s previous tech?

To start with, the company has condensed its lidar system into a single unit with a longer visual range. The single unit can better handle high operating temperatures thanks to built-in fans and can even keep itself clean with built-in water jets. Next, Argo upgraded its radar system by nearly doubling its range, which, when paired with the upgraded lidar, allows the vehicles to operate safely at higher speeds.

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There are tons of improvements in this next generation of Argo hardware.


Argo

Argo also went all-in on developing the camera system that its test vehicles will be using. Both near-field and far-field high-definition cameras are in use here, with bespoke image sensors that can better handle high-dynamic-range lighting situations. Argo also added three microphones to the sensor package, which allow vehicles to listen for emergency vehicle sirens and react to them even before they’re in visual range for the other sensors.

To deal with all this sensor input, Argo is employing two self-driving computer systems, with the second one acting as a redundant unit in case the first one fails. The first computer is called the Autonomous Vehicle System and handles the bulk of the vehicle’s driving tasks. The second computer is called the Complementary Autonomous Vehicle System, and in addition to being a backup, it helps carry some of the load of the collision avoidance systems.

It’s difficult to say how effective this new hardware will be compared with tech from other self-driving developers like Waymo or Cruise, but one area where Argo is lagging behind is in its tech’s visual appeal. Waymo and Cruise both have plenty of sensor bulges on their test vehicles, but nothing close to the sensor pods on Argo’s Ford Escape development vehicles. Appearance may sound like a silly thing to be critical of, but ultimately, when talking about something that’s meant to be sold to customers, it’s something to consider.


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