Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Alphabet Inc., is further expanding its testing of self-driven cars to cater to a potential blind spot for autonomous vehicles: snowy and icy conditions.
Waymo has disclosed that the state of Michigan will be the sixth state to test self-driving cars. The company selected Michigan to check the working of the cars in snowy and icy conditions.
The company has been testing cars in the states of Texas, Arizona, Washington, Nevada and California. The tests in Michigan will start next week on public roads. Waymo will also allocate a backup safety driver, who will be in the driver’s seat.
In a post on Waymo’s blog, CEO John Krafcik stated, “For human drivers, the mix of winter conditions affects how well you can see and the way your vehicle handles the road. The same is true for self-driving cars.” He further added, “Our ultimate goal is for our fully self-driving cars to operate safely and smoothly in all kinds of environments.”
Since 2012 the company has been testing cars on the Nevada and California border, near Lake Tahoe. However, testing in icy conditions of a busy street like Detroit, among commuters, is what the company is going for this time.
Last year, the company opened a development center in Michigan in collaboration with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to integrate Waymo’s self-driving technology into Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans.
The new winter testing is in the backyard of Detroit’s Big Three automakers. U.S. automakers have touted plans to get self-driving cars on the roads. A hurdle in self-driving software is the challenges of winter weather.
Another challenge for Waymo will be careless and reckless driving by other human drivers. There have been cases of inattentive drivers who have hit these self-driven cars.