Welcome to Florida, Waymo.
One of the big problems self-driving cars will have to overcome to be viable on public roads is the weather. With rain, the patchwork of sensors used to 'see' the road, road markings, and obstacles need to deal with all kinds of new reflections, particularly the lasers used for lidar. To that end, Google's self-driving spinoff, Waymo, announced Tuesday that it has started heavy rain testing in Florida.
Via Medium, Waymo's post tells us the company is bringing both of its testbeds to The Sunshine State, which means Floridian's could be seeing the Jaguar I-Pace in Waymo livery alongside the usual Chrysler Pacifica minivans on the roads.
Waymo is leaving its usual testing base of California where rain is a rarity, and cause for celebration in the summer, to take advantage of Florida's summer average of over 60 millimeters of rain per year. Waymo points out that it's not just the rain creating noise in the car's sensors that needs to be investigated, but also how people change their behavior when driving in the rain that needs testing. Given the reputation Floridian's have for driving and the level of rain, it must be the perfect place for testing the limits on an autonomous vehicle.
The company is starting out its Florida development path on a closed course in Naples first. Once the torture testing of the systems is complete, Waymo plans to put the cars on the public road around Miami with human drivers at the wheel to test the camera and sensor systems while collecting new data.
Florida looks like it will be the new hotbed for autonomous vehicle testing having recently brought a law that lifts regulations and restrictions on testing. 29 states have now enacted laws regarding driverless cars and 10 states now have executive orders made by their governors. Florida is unique though in how far the state has gone with the legislative intent to encourage the development, testing, and operation of autonomous vehicles there.