Waymo, a self-driving car company from Alphabet, has been testing in the suburbs of Phoenix for several years. And while the solar metropolis may seem like the ideal and easiest place to test autonomous vehicle technology, there are times when the desert becomes a dangerous place for any driver – human or computer.
The two major safety concerns in this desert region are: sudden storms that cause lightning floods and hububs, giant dust walls between 1500 and 3000 feet high that can cover up to 100 square miles. A record hub in July 2011 covered the entire Phoenix Valley, covering an area of more than 517 square miles.
Waymo released a blog post Friday that includes two videos showing how the sensors of their self-driving vehicles detect and recognize objects as you move through a hub in Phoenix and fog in San Francisco. The car in Phoenix was driven manually while the one in the fog video was offline.
The purpose of videos, Waymo says, is to show how and if vehicles recognize objects during these extremely low visibility times, and do so. The haboob video shows how its sensors work to identify a pedestrian crossing a street with almost no visibility.
Waymo uses a combination of lidar, radar and camera to detect and identify objects. Fog, rain, or dust may limit the visibility of all or some of these sensors.
Waymo does not silage the sensors affected by a particular meteorological event. Instead, it continues to receive data from all sensors, even those that do not perform as well in fog or dust, and uses this collective information to better identify objects.
The potential is for autonomous vehicles to improve visibility, one of the biggest limitations on people's productivity, writes a blog post by Debbie Hersman. Waymo's Chief Safety Officer. If Waymo or other AV companies are successful, they could help reduce one of the leading players to crashes. The Department of Transportation estimates that the weather contributes to 21% of the annual U.S. disaster.
However, there are cases where even an autonomous vehicle does not belong on the road. It is crucial for any company planning to deploy AV to have a system that can not only identify but also take the safest action if conditions deteriorate.
Waymo cars are designed to automatically detect extreme climatic changes, such as a snowstorm, Kersman can affect a person's or AP's ability to drive safely,
The question is what happens next. It is assumed that people get out of the way during a hubab and switch off a vehicle that acts when a person encounters a heavy fog. Waymo self-driving vehicles will do the same if weather conditions worsen to the extent that the company believes it will affect the safe operation of its cars, Hersman writes.
Videos and a blog post are Waymo's latest efforts to show how and where it is tested. The company announced on August 20 that it has begun testing how its sensors handle the heavy rain in Florida. Moving to Florida will focus on data collection and sensor testing;
Waymo has also tested (or tested) its technology in and around Mountain View, California, Novi, Michigan, Kirkland, Washington, and San Francisco. Most of the company's activities were in the Phoenix suburbs and around Mountain View.