Ford has announced that it is testing its self-driving car programme in snowy conditions.
Google believes that we could be seeing the first automated cars on the road within the next four or five years. However, there are still a few major hurdles to overcome before such companies can consider going public.
One of the biggest of these is how self-driving cars handle inclement weather conditions, such as snow and ice.
Now Ford has indicated that it’s tackling the problem head-on by testing its own automated cars in the snow. The established car company is based in Michigan, where there’s no shortage of the white stuff for such tests.
It seems the big issue here isn’t the traction of the car on this unpredictably slippery material, but rather how snow can impair a self-driving car’s cameras and sensors. In effect, it can render an automated vehicle snowblind.
Snowfall can affect the car’s LiDAR system – the spinning sensors sat atop these test vehicles. Ford’s solution is to use the LiDAR system to position the car according to high-level landmarks, then use pre-installed high-detail maps to navigate.
It was recently reported that Ford and Google could be teaming up to produce a self-driving car, but the mooted CES 2016 announcement didn’t happen. With the internet giant positioned down in sunny California, it might need to ask Ford for a hand in its own winter testing efforts.