Waymo announced on Thursday that it is bringing its Chrysler Pacifica minivans to the Detroit area to test how the company's technology performs in the region's harsh winters. MI would be the 6th state where these cars will be tested to see how it would respond to snow, ice, and sleet where a backup safety driver would sit in the driver seat.
"This type of testing will give us the opportunity to assess the way our sensors perform in wet, cold conditions", Waymo CEO John Krafcik said in a blog post about the MI testing. Waymo said on Thursday that MI is simply the 6th state where the driving auto venture will test self-governing vehicles.
MI boasts three core strengths when it comes to its ambitions to market itself as a rigorous autonomous-vehicle proving ground.
But it's not a problem if a self-driving taxi in Phoenix can't handle snow, icy roads, or heavy rain, since these conditions happen so rarely in the Grand Canyon state.
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Krafcik says that Waymo has been doing cold-weather tests since 2012. "The same is true for self-driving cars".
The testing announcement builds on Waymo's presence in MI, as it opened a 53,000-square-foot technology development center in Novi in May 2016.
"This type of testing will give us the opportunity to assess the way our sensors perform in wet, cold conditions", Krafcik wrote. The goal would appear to be twofold: teach self-driving cars how to handle slippery, unplowed roads; and thumb their nose at the legacy automakers who are scrambling to keep up to Alphabet's big head start in autonomy. Other states that the company set foot in include California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Washington State.