Self-driving cars, at the moment, seem to be pretty decent at holding their own. Granted there still needs to be a lot of fine tuning and testing, but on regular roads they seem to do alright. However what about in snow? Given the slippery nature of snow, can autonomous vehicles and their sensors perform as well?
Ford wants to find out and have recently announced that they have started conducting tests of their autonomous vehicles in snow, something that they are calling an industry-first, and also something that Google themselves have yet to do. According to Jim McBride, Ford technical leader for autonomous vehicles, “Weather isn’t perfect, and that’s why we’re testing autonomous vehicles in wintry conditions – for the roughly 70 percent of U.S. residents who live in snowy regions.”So how does this work? How does it differ from regular roads? For starters, Ford will employ the use of 3D maps which will keep scanning the environment so that even if the road is blanketed in snow, it will know where it is and how to keep to its lane. “When the vehicle can’t see the ground, it detects above-ground landmarks to pinpoint itself on the map, and then subsequently uses the map to drive successfully in inclement conditions.”
McBride adds that not only will this help autonomous cars work in snowy environments, but also in situations where the car can determine if it should keep driving, or maybe stop for a while as the snow might be too heavy to safely keep driving.
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