back to article Futuristic driverless car technology to be trialled on... oh, a Ford Mondeo

A Ford Fusion* has been fitted with autonomous driving technology as part of the Driven consortium's tech trials in Oxford, UK. The consortium – which includes driverless car tech startup Oxbotica, domain registry Nominet, Telefónica and the Atomic Energy Authority – has also fitted a Range Rover Evoque and a Ford Mondeo with …

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  1. Snivelling Wretch

    Slightly disappointed it's not a mk1 from 1993...

    1. frank ly
      Thumb Up

      I drive a Mk2 (November 2000 with 160,000 miles on it, original clutch) and it's a great car.

      1. Steven Raith

        I keep seeing ST200s and more recently, ST220s going fairly cheap on AutoTrader.

        If I had a couple of grand burning a hole in my pocket, I can't help thinking one of those with a centre pipe removal and a decat would be quite a giggle.

        Probably make more sense to fix my car first though (which hasn't happpened because I don't have a couple of grand burning a hole in my pocket...)

        Steven R

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I have the

          2.5t MK IV petrol on an 08 plate and it is THE best car I have ever owned and driven.

          It puts a genuine smile on my Chevvy every time I drive it.

          It had 18k on it when I paid 10k for it. It wasn't run in and was in essentially showroom condition.

    2. MyffyW

      Well it looks much the same as the Tesla model 3...

    3. PNGuinn
      Coat

      Mk1 Cortina, Anglia, FORD FREFECT.

      What's that Skippy?

      Thanks - it's the one with the Dinky cars in the pockets ...

    4. Michael Strorm

      @ Snivelling Wretch; "Slightly disappointed it's not a mk1 from 1993..."

      That's pretty much the image that popped into my head when I read "Mondeo". And to me, that's the problem...

      To be honest, I've wondered more than once why Ford bothered keeping the Mondeo name for the more recent versions. They've obviously put a lot of effort into making the styling look sharp and desirable, yet kept a name strongly associated with 90s repmobile blandness. (#)

      Even at the time the early models were considered a dull replacement for the Sierra, and remained so despite Ford's attempt to redesign the lights and grille.

      Yes, they were also commercially successful, but (to me) that also cemented the association of the name with those boringly middle-of-the-road early models. A well-known name, sure, but is it one that anyone ever actually loved or that even meant much?

      Having an established name sounds like a good thing, but it can also tie you down with its associations- in this case to blandness and being stuck in the 1990s... not necessarily a good thing if you're trying to increase the desirability of your cars.

      (#) Even the name itself is very 90s- one of those bland, corporate neo-Latinesque non-words (designed to sound inoffensive in as many languages/markets as possible) that sprouted everywhere during that decade.

      1. Chris 125

        "Even at the time the early models were considered a dull replacement "

        [citation needed]

        Car magazines from 1993 raved about the Mondeo, Autocar drove one 12,000 miles in a week (over the channel and then around the Autobahns, given that's a 71mph 24/7 average to save you reaching for the calculator). Four up, they claimed it was comfortable and capable.

        Auto Express in 1992 explored how they came up with the name - from the French "Monde" as this was the first World Car designed to be sold in all major markets without much change above legislative requirements like lighting. The design name was CDW to illustrate this - the CD meaning a mid-sized car, and they forced the W in there to mean World.

        It costs a lot to change the name of a car. When they went from Escort to Focus, they kept the Escort around for two years so dealers could sell them to people who insisted that's the car they wanted - ignoring the Focus wasn't much more expensive, and a world away in terms of design and ability. They went in for an Escort, as they'd had an Escort since 1982, and if Ford no longer did the Escort then they'd go and buy an Astra. They also learned a lot from the Cortina->Sierra swap which boosted Cavalier sales by a huge amount.

        Perhaps the dull image came later, with the "Mondeo Man" political campaign. Ford can't have been too unhappy that their car was chosen as a representation for a good, reliable man in the street though.

        "despite Ford's attempt to redesign the lights and grille."

        The first Mondeo left the production line in November 1992 and dealers got stock in Feb 1993. The facelift came into play in late 1997, four and a bit years on sale is a pretty standard cycle for panelwork changes. If ford had been upset with the Mk1, then they would have done that much sooner - such as with the Mk5 Escort in 1990 which was absolutely panned by a lot of publications and gained a new front and rear end in 1992.

        1. Pedigree-Pete

          Cortina>Sierra...

          Did we not nearly lose Neil Kinnock in an accident involving an early Sierra on the M4 near J12 in July 1983. Allegedly down to "a bit of a crosswind". PP

          1. Chris 125

            Re: Cortina>Sierra...

            Yes. After the first year of production, they gained little tiny spoilers on the D pillar window seals to shape the air a bit better. The first ones were quite wafty at the back before this modification.

  2. big_D Silver badge
    Holmes

    Branding

    The branding is good, because obnoxious a*holes will know that they can cut up those vehicles and they will get out of the way and not honk at them or roadrage them...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Branding

      But they also have a ton of cameras on them which can be used in evidence. As Police in the UK now use dashcam footage for prosecutions and allow the public to make road complaints I would suggest cutting up half-blind pensioners (also driving Mondeos, no doubt) instead.

  3. Oneman2Many

    To be honest it could have been any car, I don't think they are planning on using any of the existing on board tech or sensors of which there are quite a few.

  4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Why not use a Tesla?

    They are well on their way towards getting full driverless (well according to Elon Musk) and the Model 3 will have all the cameras needed built in to the basic model.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Why not use a Tesla?

      Why use a Tesla 3? If you do, the first thing you do is rip out all the Tesla technology and replace it with your own...

      The Mondeo is a stink normal car and representative of where the technology will be aimed. Plus it is relatively cheap to buy and run, so you have more money for R&D, because you aren't using a prestige brand.

      Of course, using a Dacia or Lada would have saved even more money...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not use a Tesla?

        The Mondeo is a stink normal car

        Arguably it isn't, because its not even in the top five sellers within its segment, and comprehensively outsold by BMW 3 series, and several VW group models. As far as I can see, a new Mondeo is becoming something of a rarity in the UK.

        1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

          Re: Why not use a Tesla?

          BMWs don't come with working indicators

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why not use a Tesla?

            "BMWs don't come with working indicators"

            Speaking as a cyclist, round where I live, that occurs more often with Audis, although I've seen some attorocious behavior on the road from pretty much everyone, including pedestrians and other cyclists.

            When the indicator switch failed on our car (not an Audi or BMW, an el cheapo Citroen...) the AA took it home for us on the back of a lorry, because "it wasn't legal to drive it". I didn't like to suggest that I knew the correct arm signals, because I have no doubt that many drivers nowadays wouldn't have a clue what they meant, plus I was 150 miles from home and really didn't fancy changing lanes on the motorway like that.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Why not use a Tesla?

              "the AA took it home for us on the back of a lorry, because "it wasn't legal to drive it".

              He was wrong and should have known better. The standard hand signals are still in the Highway Code, even if, as you go on to say, the majority of other road users are unlikely to understand them these days.

              On the other hand (see what I did there?), driving 150 miles on hand signals on busy roads and motorways might not be much fun.

          2. Pedigree-Pete
            WTF?

            Re: BMW Indicators...

            Ah! It's not just me and Mrs Pedigree who notice this. Quite common on some Audis and Merc too. PP

        2. Michael Strorm

          Re: Why not use a Tesla?

          "Outsold by BMW 3 series [..] As far as I can see, a new Mondeo is becoming something of a rarity in the UK."

          As I commented here in more detail, it might not help that they've kept a name too associated with dull, middle of the road 90s repmobile blandness.

          I mean, the styling is completely different- sharp, up-to-date and obviously intended to look more "luxurious"- but it could look and drive like a Lamborghini and it would still be hobbled by the boring associations of the Mondeo badge on the back.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Why not use a Tesla?

        If they can get it to work on a Mondeo, I'll be impressed. Plus there are loads of easily obtainable spares for when it goes wrong.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Why not use a Tesla?

      Why not use a Tesla Model 3?

      Because they'd like to start testing now, not in two years, that's why. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it'll be a lovely car, it's just that all of Musk's ventures seem to run on Valve time.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    WFT

    I was about to mash the keyboard then read the last paragraph.

    "The Atomic Energy Agency is part of the £8.9m Driven consortium chiefly because its test track at Culham, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire,"

    That's explains it....hold on.

    Why have the AEA got a test track?

    Yes, I remember, Tomorrows World! We ARE going to get nuclear powered cars after all. Yippee.

    1. Mike Taylor

      Re: WFT

      I'm not sure they have a test track, as it sounds. They have a large private road network, with junctions, roundabouts etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WFT

        I'm not sure they have a test track, as it sounds. They have a large private road network, with junctions, roundabouts etc.

        Indeed - and if it's like the one up the road at Harwell, it goes around a number of buildings containing to-be-decommissioned nuclear material. Kind of an incentive not to drive off the road and into any buildings.

    2. Michael Strorm

      Re: WFT

      @Lost all faith...; "We ARE going to get nuclear powered cars after all."

      Good- I've had mine on preorder for quite some time now.

  6. Aladdin Sane
    Trollface

    Testing in Oxford

    So nothing above 10mph.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Testing in Oxford

      At least it will gain plenty of experience of driving in roadworks with no lane markings, and avoiding cyclists.

    2. Paul 25

      Re: Testing in Oxford

      This actually makes me think Oxbotica stand a chance of coming up with something decent.

      Most of the other automonomous car developers are focusing on the US at the moment, with all their grid layouts, generally well laid out roads, and wide freeways, that's like driving on easy mode compared to many towns in the UK built on ancient road layouts with narrow roads and terrible junctions.

      If Oxbotica can nail driving in places like Oxford or here in Bath then I'll consider it a solved problem. The day an AI can figure out the junction near me that's a five way offset cross-roads (one of which is single lane), on a steep hill, on a bend, with sod-all visibility for the steepest road, I'll be properly impressed.

      If it can then make it along the busy street with cars parked on both sides, working out who's turn it is to get out of the way, without getting bullied into staying put forever, that's the day the machines take over the world.

      1. Aladdin Sane

        Re: Testing in Oxford

        Not to mention an over abundance of inebriated students.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Testing in Oxford

        @Paul 25.... "If it can then make it along the busy street with cars parked on both sides, working out who's turn it is to get out of the way, without getting bullied into staying put forever, that's the day the machines take over the world."

        Comparatively easy. Let it try driving around Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon) in Vietnam.

        http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/society/161591/hcm-city-aims-to-unclog-roads-to-airport.html

      3. Oneman2Many

        Re: Testing in Oxford

        Level 5 in the UK is a breeze compared to Asia or many parts of Europe.

      4. Pedigree-Pete
        Go

        Re: Testing in Oxford

        The "magic" roundabout is just down the road in Swindon. (No, not those slightly magic jobs in Hemel and High Wycombe). I know a few experienced drivers who won't take that on. PP

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't Ford Mondeos already have autonomous driving technology?

    I could swear the sales w*nker with the suit hung up in the back is on autopilot already.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wrong car mate.

      You need to be looking at either Beemer or Audi drivers.

      Mondeo's are a more exclusive car. Exactly the same quality only a better ride, cheaper to repair and two thirds the price!!

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The challenge has been building a computer that can shave, add up their expenses and eat a Ginsters while driving

  8. Ol'Peculier
    WTF?

    Nominet

    What on earth justifies Nominet been involved in this project?

    1. AndyS

      Re: Nominet

      I guess the car probably has a fair amount of on-board coms and connections, so maybe having someone who knows about networking makes sense?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Nominet

        "so maybe having someone who knows about networking makes sense?"

        True. So why are Nominet involved?

    2. Lee D

      Re: Nominet

      "Buy your personalised name.ford.self-driving domain today! Only 70 squilion dollars a year!"

  9. W4YBO

    Branding?

    "High-visibility branding of the test vehicles is a good thing, as they move from extensive off-road trials to streets where they'll be mixing with everyday traffic, so that we know not to panic when we see one approaching with no one holding the steering wheel."

    So they modeled the paint job after NASCAR?

  10. naive

    Probably self driving cars are a hoax ?

    Having recently read about major car recalls in the USA, it is completely unclear how self driving cars are going to work in near future. Car manufacturers are struggling, and often failing, in avoiding major recalls on key safety components.

    Legislation would have to be changed, so FAA like rules would ave to be extended to cars as well. This could be the end for the friendly workshop around the corner, since many probably couldn't afford the equipment required to repair cars using standards from the aviation industry.

    Unless "self driving cars" is something else then an attempt to get free publicity, they better take a few steps back and maybe limit themselves to affordable assistants which make rear ending another car impossible.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong way around

    Level 4 autonomous is a silly idea, as a human can only reasonably be expected to take control if a vehicle gets "stuck" in a situation where it doesn't know how to proceed. It's no use if a driver needs to take control in an emergency - i.e. impending crash. However, it's the driver behind the wheel who will be deemed legally responsible if a level 4 car ever does have a crash - it's basically "patsy behind the wheel technology".

    Going from level 4 to level 5 (truly autonomous) is going to be tough. You can get around the simple issues by having AA/RAC/other callouts for stuck AI problems, but I've not yet seen a description of how liability could work that's actually sensible. Pinning it on the owner of the car (who has no control of what it's doing other than setting a destination) would be extremely unpopular, but the manufacturers don't want the liability to remain with them, so that's almost certainly how it will go. The only people who would accept this are those who are gullible enough to assume that level 5 cars will never be in an accident that's deemed to be the fault of the car.

    Oh dear, I think I've just identified the target market for the first generation of self driving cars...

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Wrong way around

      You raise some excellent points.

      However... If you go to any of the forums where Teslaoids (blinkered Tesla Fans) hangout they are talking about 2022 for full level 5. I know they are smoking some good shit but 2022? Really?

      The legal framework for this will take years to resolve. For example, can you use a fully autonomous car to take you home drunk?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Wrong way around

        It's just like having a pillion on the back of a bike and when you inevitably over-cook it into a corner just turning round and saying - all yours!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong way around

          OP here...

          The point of the title got lost during editing... I meant that level 4 autonomous is technology being used the wrong way round, so that the human has to take over in the event of problems. It would be far better if the car can take over in the event that the meatsack driver overcooks things, to get the car under control again. There are already cars out there with braking assist/collision detection etc., so this is really just an extension of this for the steering as well. In essence it would be like having a pillion who you could say "all yours" to, except with a chance that it'd actually do some good!

          Unfortunately "slightly better safety features" isn't as good a marketing term as "self driving car", so the R&D budgets are being spent on going in the wrong direction. Hopefully the engineers will be able to use the tech the other way around as well, and we'll get safer cars as a result.

          Oh, and 2022 for level 5? Got to hand it to the optimists, haven't you. Still, they have their role - they're the early adopters who pay over the odds for stuff before it works properly. They pay for the R&D so I don't have to.

  12. Samurai

    Left-Hand Drive imported Ford Mondeo Hybrid

    Something that puzzled me and other locals that have seen this car out and about pre-branding and announcement, is that it's an imported left-hand drive hybrid model, rather than anything UK spec, so we're still a little curious as to why - unless it really is to make the average passer-by believe there's no one in the driving seat...?

    Also, the pre-branding car features a number of disclaimers on the windows stating that imagery is being recorded to comply with data protection regulations.

    1. Chris 125

      Re: Left-Hand Drive imported Ford Mondeo Hybrid

      Perhaps the tech has been brought in from the USA and has been tested on a LHD car, and it wasn't worth the time to fit out a RHD Mondeo and go through testing again. It should be the same, but there will be differences in the ECU, connections to the power steering motor etc.

      1. Oneman2Many

        Re: Left-Hand Drive imported Ford Mondeo Hybrid

        I don't LHD is an issue here, the other vehicles in the scheme are RHD.

        I am wondering if they are using Ford tech for this test as Ford have AV fusions running in the US already.

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