Snowy Conditions? No Problem for Robot Cars

One of the many concerns that people have about the autonomous vehicles that are currently being developed is that it’s unclear how they will operate in inclement weather. These vehicles might be able to navigate dry roads safely, but what is going to happen when it snows outside? Will the vehicles be inoperable?

There’s no telling exactly how car manufacturers will deal with this issue once autonomous vehicles become a reality, but recently, a group of scientists in Finland proved that snow and other forms of bad weather might not be as problematic as people think.

Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland developed a robotic car that is capable of driving over snowy terrain without a problem. The car was able to drive over snow covered pavement roads (the specific amount of snow wasn’t noted in the material released about the test) and slippery stretches at 40 kilometers per hour without lane markings. Researches said, “The car could have had even more speed, but in test driving it’s programmed not to exceed the limit of 40 kilometers per hour.”

The car, which is called Martti, utilizes a series of cameras, antennas, sensors, and laser scanners to drive in the snow. So far, it’s been able to reach speeds of about 25 miles per hour in snowy weather.

The researchers who developed Martti were obviously ecstatic about what the robotic car was able to do during testing. But they realize that there is still plenty of work to be done before an autonomous vehicle is fully capable of navigating snowy streets at higher speeds, and they are determined to do that work in the near future. They have already said that they plan to build more intelligence into the software that powers the vehicle and increase the resolution of the vehicle’s radar in order to allow for it to drive over snow-covered roads with increased efficiency. The goal is to make the vehicle as safe as possible in the coming months and years.

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