See where self-driving cars are being tested in the snow
Monday, February 15, 2016, 4:08 PM - Self-driving cars will soon take over the roads and in most cases these vehicles have been tested in dry, mostly sunny climates. However, this often isn't the case in Canada were we have sub-zero temperatures and wintry weather.
One of the biggest technical challenges is sensors can't see through the snow. Nevertheless, progress is being made.
Ford is one of the first to test autonomous vehicles in the snow and has begun a project dubbed "snowtonomy" in collaboration with the University of Michigan at their 32-acre full-scale simulated real-world environment in Michigan.
"There's a lot of buzz in our industry about autonomous vehicles and there will be a time when we have self-driving vehicles, probably closer than we think with as fast as this world moves," Dianne Craig, Ford of Canada's president and CEO told The Weather Network. "I think the long term challenge is how will customers feel about that. It's going to be very different. The technologies that we have that are semi autonomous, you know, customers are still in control of. But when you think of a self-driving car, we know it has to operate and be completely perfect."
To navigate snowy roads, Ford's autonomous vehicles are equipped with high-resolution 3D maps - complete with information about the road and what's above it, including road markings, signs, geography, landmarks and topography. When the vehicle is unable to recognize the ground, it detects above-ground landmarks to pinpoint itself on the map and then proceeds to drive according to the weather conditions.
"We feed that to powerful computers with algorithms that use all of that information to do a lot of what if planning. When we have to do something like make an invasive maneuver, we can train the vehicle to do that maneuver so we can have the vehicle drive in those situations. Especially in slippery no grip situations like there are in the snow, in a way an expert highly trained would have," said Greg Stevens, global manager, driver assistance research with Ford Motor Company.
Ford hopes their autonomous vehicles will eventually have the ability to detect deteriorating conditions and decide whether it's safe to keep driving and for how long.
"Once our self-driving cars hit the market, one we want to make them affordable to the masses, but the other thing is they will be better than any human driver because ultimately, it's safety first," said Craig.
Craig says Ford plans to have autonomous vehicles on the market within the next five years.
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