In the late 1980s, Formula One cars began being fitted with sensors to measure fuel use, engine characteristics, braking performance and other metrics. Now manufacturers of road cars want massive amounts of data as they develop self-driving vehicles.
At the Ford display last month at SAE International's World Congress Experience in Detroit, two Ford vehicles that use big data -- a racing version of the GT supercar and a self-driving Fusion sedan -- were parked within feet of each other.
Both vehicles were loaded with sensors; the Fusion's trunk was filled with electronics equipment used to collect and transmit data.
Ford wants to have a fleet of Level 4 autonomous cars on the road by 2021. Dave Schmidt, a Ford data project manager working on the company's self-driving cars, says the connection today between the GT and the Fusion is how the useful data are used to improve performance, as is the case with the Land Rover R1.
"A key part of autonomy is being able to analyze data, to optimize the performance of the vehicle, to optimize the service the vehicle is trying to deliver," says Schmidt. "You could drive down a long highway in the middle of Wyoming and never experience an event. There's probably nothing relevant in that data, but you've collected a tremendous amount of it."