The next time Florida Man is out throwing an alligator through the drive-thru window of a Wendy’s or driving a Wal-Mart courtesy scooter home from the store, he may come across a self-driving car. We hope for Waymo’s sake that he doesn’t panic. Who knows what sorts of crazy might ensue.
- Shortly after Florida began allowing autonomous vehicle testing without a backup driver, Waymo has announced it will bring its autonomous fleet to the Sunshine State.
- Google’s self-driving car project is looking for tropical weather of a different sort: Heavy rain.
- For now, Waymo’s self-driving vehicles will be operated by test drivers.
Waymo will begin testing its self-driving vehicles in Florida. (Photo: Waymo)
Bring the noise
Florida is known for sandy beaches, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and Midwestern retirees. Also, rain. Waymo cites Miami’s summer Hurricane Season and the city’s 61.9 inches of annual rain as the company’s primary motivation for venturing south. Rain creates what Waymo calls “noise” for its sensor package, a combination of lidar, cameras, and radar. Having the correct algorithms to parse the environment and ignore this noise is paramount in perfecting self-driving technology.
Waymo will be bringing its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans as well as Jaguar I-Pace electric SUVs to the public roads of Miami after first conducting closed-course testing in Naples. The company says it will also be visiting Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Myers as it gathers more data about driving on wet roads in heavy rain.
WHY THIS MATTERS
Waymo is acknowledged as a leader in fully autonomous vehicle development, but there’s little evidence that any company has completely solved the weather problem. Until someone does, future deployment of self-driving cars will have a limited scope.