The Ford Motor Company’s announced it’s working with with the University of Michigan to test driverless vehicle technology in snowy, icy winter weather.
The Driverless Transportation website in the US reports that Michigan is an ideal location for testing autonomous cars because of its variable weather from season to season and because the University has “Mcity”, its 32-acre testing ground with a fake cityscape, built especifically for testing autonomous and connected-car technology.
It says that a “burning question that industry professionals have long been asking” is how well autonomous car technology would fare in extreme weather when rain, snow or ice might obstruct cameras and sensors. If those systems are obstructed, passengers could find himself in a dangerous situation, so many in the industry are eager to hear how Ford’s tests are going.
Jim McBride, Ford’s head of autonomous research, told Wired magazine that Ford creates a high-fidelity, 3D map of the area its test car is going to travel before a test drive. “Those maps include details like the exact position of the curbs and lane lines, trees and signs, along with local speed limits and other relevant rules. The more a car knows about an area, the more it can focus its sensors and computing power on detecting temporary obstacles – like people and other vehicles – in real time. We’re able to drive perfectly well in snow.”