Waymo, formerly Google's Self-Driving Car Project, has taken their autonomous Chrysler Pacifica mini-vans into Lake Tahoe, CA to get some experience driving in the snow. Waymo has been testing their self-driving cars on public roads for quite a few years already, but the majority of the cities and states where they are testing the vehicles, do not get snow. Which means that the company has not been able to test their software in the type of weather that the northern part of the United States experiences for a good part of the year. This is something that Ford has already been working on with their self-driving cars, and where they are headquartered in Dearborn, MI (a city that gets plenty of snow), that isn't a huge surprise.
While Waymo is looking forward to getting their software into car models in the next few years, handling snow is going to be a big deal for their fleet of self-driving cars. Since it does add a ton of different challenges. Not just the fact that the car will have a bit more trouble seeing the road, as well as traffic lights, pedestrians and even street signs, but the roads are more slippery. It'll be interesting to see how Waymo's vehicles handle in the snow, and how much work they need to put into the software here. For now, they are only using the Chrysler Pacifica models in Lake Tahoe, but that could change.
The decision for Waymo to take their vehicles to Lake Tahoe, California, is like due to the fact that they would still be in the state of California, where they have a license to operate their self-driving cars on public roads, and also still be nearby their offices. It's a bit surprising that they are sticking to California when Michigan has created all sorts of laws for companies like Waymo to test their autonomous vehicles in the state. Not to mention Chrysler and other partners of Waymo are in Michigan, as well as one of their test facilities.
When it comes to snowy conditions, Waymo is actually pretty far behind the pack in working in the white stuff, but that is changing, and that's definitely a good thing. Waymo's CEO, John Krafcik announced the move on Twitter today, and we should be hearing more about the progress in the coming weeks and months.