Driving through the snow can be very tricky business, especially if your car isn’t well equipped and there’s low visibility. Self-driving cars, for all their marvelous advances, struggle with much the same issues when it comes to winter conditions. But Ford is looking to overcome some of these and teach its autonomous vehicles how to handle less than ideal conditions on the road.
In a new video, the automaker shared its plans to test a fleet of self-driving cars in snow and blizzards. These often prove difficult for this new breed of car because snow flurries and treacherous road conditions can impede the car’s sensors and leave it partially blind and confused. Ford will be testing these vehicles in its own facility, not on public roads, and the aim of the experiment is to actually train the cars to respond to winter conditions.
As part of this effort, the company will employ new 3D maps of the area where the cars are being tested, maps that are created in dry conditions to capture as much detail as possible. Not only that, but Ford’s autonomous vehicles will also heavily rely on LiDAR instead of regular cameras, as the laser guidance system works better in such conditions, while cameras are generally obstructed by snow.
The eventual goal here is to teach the cars enough, so as when the moment comes they can efficiently use the vehicle’s traction, braking and steering systems just like a professional driver would when dealing with treacherous road conditions.
Accidents tend to happen more often in bad weather, so getting a good handle on these issues would definitely push the self-driving car technology forward and possibly make it safer for humans to be on the road in winter.