Waymo's autonomous Chrysler van is taking a road trip to Vegas according to a recent post from the company on Twitter, which mentions that it'll also be heading out to Death Valley to test the self-driving vehicle in the extreme heat that can be found in the region. This will be a big departure from the kinds of conditions that Waymo has already been testing and could make for an interesting set of results. According to Waymo it can confirm that location is "really hot," though the test has its obvious goals as Waymo makes a note to highlight that the point of taking the van out to Vegas and Death Valley is to test out how well its thermal sensors can handle the heat.
One comment on the Twitter tweet thread mentions that these kinds of tests are important for people in the Phoenix area, which has been experiencing a heat wave over the past week or so that has caused some extremely high temperatures. To that end Waymo likely wants to ensure that the thermal sensors won't break down or malfunction in regions where the temperatures are a fair amount higher than what you'll find California, where most of the testing has taken place. That said Waymo has also already done some testing of its self-riving vans in Arizona where they were transporting locals around at no cost as part of the test.
While the majority of the locations that Waymo's self-driving cars and vans might be operating in aren't going to have these kinds of temperatures, it's still a necessary step that the company has to take on the path to bringing these vehicles to market. The company reached an agreement with Avis just a few days ago to allow the car rental company to service its a portion of its fleet of autonomous cars, though it will also store them in addition maintaining them. Waymo may have a long way to go before the self-driving vehicles are ready for primetime and wide range consumer use, but the more it continues to test its vehicles in new conditions the closer it gets to having that become a reality.