Google Self-Driving Car

Self-Driving Cars Are Finally Doing Better With Precipitation

January 8, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

Google’s self-driving cars and their ilk are poised to start a transport revolution, but there are a few key hangups that have to be overcome somehow before said revolution can really kick off, despite successful testing in most scenarios so far. Tests in Google’s home town of Mountain View, Austin, Texas and most recently set for Ontario, British Colombia, have revealed just a few weaknesses about the cars that is stopping mass rollout in its tracks. The cars drive a bit too carefully, for starters. Humans just can’t seem to stop crashing into them as a result. There is even debate over whether to teach the cars to commit infractions, waver about and otherwise mimic human drivers at times.

Another major flaw is that these cars have a hard time dealing with heavy precipitation. Whether rain, hail, sleet or snow, the cars’ cameras just can’t cope with so many tiny objects moving all around the objects they’re trying to focus on. Due to some much-overdue rain in California, Google is finally getting a chance to do something about the cars’ issues with rain in particular and precipitation in general. For starters, they’ve developed tiny windshield wipers that go over the self-driving cars’ sensing domes. Sensors have gotten better, through testing and improvement, at seeing through the rain and now Google is working on getting them to figure bad weather into their driving. Things that human drivers do as a knee-jerk reaction, such as driving slower and taking slower, wider turns in heavy rain or snow, are things that the self-driving cars have to be taught.

Normally, when things get a bit too hairy, the autonomous autos will pull over and wait for either clearer skies or a human to lend a helping hand in navigation. Google is working to ensure this is no longer the case. In their report, they say they’re working on collecting data for more hazardous driving conditions. “To explore even more challenging environments, we’re beginning to collect data in all sorts of rainy and snowy conditions as we work toward the goal of a self-driving car that will be able to drive come rain, hail, snow or shine!”