As someone who has never lived very close to family and has always had to drive long distances to visit them, I can say that I really appreciate cruise control in a vehicle. It lets my foot get rid of the cramp that comes with continually pushing down on the gas pedal and allows me to get some much-needed stretching done. Cruise control is great for cruising down the road, but that’s about all it is good for. It doesn’t automatically control the speed of the car – you have to set it to the speed you want it to maintain – and then you have to slow it down and speed it back up depending on what’s happening on the road around you. All that to say that cruise control isn’t smart or anti-intelligent – it just is what it is.

But Ford is working on a vehicle that could make all of us forget everything we ever thought we knew about cruise control. And, if everything works out the way Ford hopes, this car could know more about driving on the road than you could ever hope to know. And it will do a whole lot more than just control your speed as you cruise.

A Self-Driving Car From Ford?

The vehicle above is known as the Automated Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle. Hopefully Ford will come up with a more catchy name when the car is ready for a wide release.

This isn’t just any Ford Fusion, though. Those 4 things that look like big microphones on top of the car? Those are infrared light sensors that allow the car to scan anything and everything around you. In fact, they scan the road 2.5 million times a second. The sensors read the road data much like dolphins and bats interpret sound waves. When all is said and done, the car can see a 3D image of everything going on around your vehicle. It probably sees more than you do. And, should it see you approaching something a little too quickly, it can slow down and even stop the car, preventing you from getting into a collision.

I have to admit, this sounds like a vehicle I wouldn’t mind owning down the road. How about you? What do you think of Ford’s prototype?

[Image via roclay]