Self-driving in snow: Waymo to start tests in MI

Isaac Cain
October 30, 2017

The company says the MI tests will build on that experience.

"I'm proud that Waymo chose MI to expand its testing as they take their self-driving vehicles into the next phase", Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement.

Waymo has had a research center in MI since 2016, but this is the first time it will be testing in the state. Second, roads in the state have been torn asunder by both weather and lack of government interest in infrastructure improvements, creating potholes the size of moon craters that challenge any vehicle, autonomous or not.

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Google's self-driving auto company will test autonomous vehicles in MI this winter in order to see how they fare in snowy and icy conditions.

"Our ultimate goal is for our fully self-driving cars to operate safely and smoothly in all kinds of environments", Waymo CEO John Krafcik writes. But it won't be Waymo's first foray on dangerously snowy streets: the company has previously tested its vehicles in winter conditions outside Lake Tahoe. "The same is true for self-driving cars". But so far Waymo has done most of its testing in sunny places like Mountain View, Calif.; Phoenix, and Austin, Tex. where snow is rare. Last May, the company opened a development center in Nov, Michigan and started working with Fiat Chrysler to include self-driving technology into the Pacifica Hybrid minivans.

The new testing will be based out of this facility, though the exact number of cars in the MI test fleet may vary over the course of the winter. Not a moment too soon-temperatures in the area dipped below freezing for the first time this fall on Thursday morning and are expected to hover in the low 30s again this weekend. Since then, Waymo has been mapping areas in that city to assess how sensors on the autonomous cars can perform during wet and cold conditions.

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