Waymo, the autonomous driving unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced in a blog that it has started testing its self-driving vehicles in the state of Florida. The company will begin heavy rain testing of its self-driving Chrysler Pacificas and a Jaguar I-Pace in the state.
Waymo is designing and testing its system to work safely and reliably in the toughest environments. Over the last few years it has been testing in the snowy Novi, Michigan, in rainy Kirkland, Washington, foggy San Francisco, as well as dusty conditions in Phoenix, Arizona.
During the summer months of Hurricane Season, Miami is one of the wettest cities in the US, averaging an annual 61.9 inches of rain and experiencing some of the most intense weather conditions in the country. Heavy rain can create a lot of noise for the vehicle sensors. Wet roads also may result in other road users behaving differently. Testing allows Waymo to understand the unique driving conditions, and get a better handle on how rain affects their vehicle movements, too.
Waymo will spend several weeks driving on a closed course in Naples where they will rigorously test the sensor suite — which includes LiDAR, cameras, and radar — during the rainiest season in the south. Later in the month, they’ll bring these vehicles to public roads in Miami. They’ll be manually operated by trained test drivers which will give the company an opportunity to collect data of real-world driving situations in heavy rain. Additionally, Florida residents will start seeing a few of these vehicles on highways between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami.
“At Miami-Dade County we are constantly exploring ways to improve and provide more mobility options for our community,” said Alice N. Bravo, P.E., Director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Transportation and Public Works. “I’m supportive of Waymo’s presence in the County as they continue to push technological boundaries and discover new ways to help us move.”
“Waymo’s decision to choose Miami as a testing platform for its cutting-edge technology speaks to our city’s position as a dynamic hub for innovation,” said Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. “As a Smart City, we are constantly working to modernise how we move and travel. Waymo’s work uniquely aligns with Miami’s mission to embrace technology to solve problems and improve lives, while prioritising safety and efficiency.”