Google to test driverless cars in Michigan's winter conditions

Google to test driverless cars in Michigan's winter conditions”

Pic: ReutersWASHINGTON: Alphabet Inc's self-driving auto unit Waymo is expanding winter testing as it works to address a potential blind spot for autonomous vehicles: snowy and icy conditions.

Waymo previously opened a dedicated development center for its self-driving tech in Novi, Michigan, but this makes the first time it'll be testing its vehicles in the state on pubic roads, and builds on its existing work there to develop tech along with partners. US automakers have touted plans to get self-driving cars on the roads.

The testing will begin in the Greater Detroit area, starting with Novi, in the next few weeks, and all vehicles will have trained safety drivers on board like the rest of Waymo's testing fleet. Waymo said the MI testing would begin around Novi.

Waymo has been testing vehicles in Texas, Arizona, Washington State, Nevada and California and starts in MI next week on public roads with a backup safety driver sitting in the driver seat if necessary. Winter conditions such as falling snow and sleet affect how both people and self-driving vehicles see and how the vehicles handle in slippery conditions. "This type of testing will give us the opportunity to assess the way our sensors perform in wet, cold conditions", Krafcik wrote for an upcoming blog post.

Waymo's next stop for its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica test vehicles is MI.

There are plenty of cold regions in the U.S., but MI has passed rules facilitating the implementation of test programs for autonomous driving, which is why several companies are testing their vehicles in the state.

Earlier this year, Waymo and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said Waymo was ordering 500 additional Pacifica Hybrids, on top of 100 it had already received, for a real-world testing program in Arizona with Phoenix-area residents.

"Waymo clearly shares our concern for and commitment to safety for MI residents".

These vehicles will ultimately need to be able to operate in any condition, which is why they are expanding their testing to harsher climates. One hurdle is self-driving auto mapping software may have challenges in winter weather.

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