The world’s first winter-testing facility for self-driving cars is to be built in New Zealand.
Steve Gould, manager at the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, told Wheels Mag earlier in December that planning is well ahead for the facility and has hinted that several companies have already approached them about instigating winter testing for their cars.
Gould says the reason for the facility already gathering attention comes down to car maker’s being nervous about their car’s cameras having to read lane markings and road signs in white out winter conditions.
“Autonomous cars rely on GPS as well, of course, but they check what the radar is reading against that GPS reading, so once the radars are gone, what does the car do then?”
“Meanwhile the cameras are looking for a line down the side of the road and one in the middle, but they’re both covered in snow and ice. It’s going to be a challenge,” said Gould to Wheels Mag.
However, the people at Ford claim they are already having success with autonomous technology tackling winter conditions. Ford uses high-resolution 3D maps of roads, which include detail about where curbs, lane lines, trees and signs are, so the car knows where it is, even if it can’t ‘see’ them.
Despite those claims, Gould believes what we’ll probably see first are some autonomous vehicles being signed off to work in clear conditions, and the next stage will be teaching them to drive in winter’s worst.
“We might see a situation where you can only use the autopilot when the weather is right. When the car knows the temperature has dropped below zero or it’s snowing, it will tell you to take over control,” he adds.