Government Business Technology Autonomous Technology from Boston-based WaveSense may solve the bad-weather conundrum autonomous vehicles face — that they can’t read the road when it’s covered with accumulated snow. (WaveSense) As things stand today, the driverless car of the future can’t handle more than a dusting of snow.
It’s a known problem in the field — and vaguely embarrassing when the end result is supposed to be robots sophisticated enough to navigate the uncertainties of traffic and improve on lackluster human perception.
In Boston, where NuTonomy has been road-testing autonomous vehicles in cooperation with city planning officials, snow and seagulls have emerged as two of the biggest obstacles. “Snow not only alters the vehicle’s traction but also changes how the vehicle’s cameras and sensors perceive the street,” a study by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group concluded.
For the local breed of unflappable seagulls — which can stop autonomous cars by simply standing on the street, unbothered by NuTonomy’s quiet electric cars — engineers programmed the machines to creep forward slightly to startle the birds. There’s not yet a solution for Boston snow. @NuTonomy can now move its self-driving cars on any road in Boston https://t.co/ilitjh9ToS by @BostonomiX — HUBweek (@HUBweek) June 22, 2018 After years of testing, with hundreds of cars and vans deployed on public streets and private facilities, even the best autonomous-driving efforts still struggle with inclement weather. The ultimate hurdle to the next phase of driverless technology might not come from algorithms and artificial intelligence — it might be fog and rain.
Another Boston-area startup is promising a way to solve these weather woes, just as leading players race to launch viable businesses. WaveSense has built a radar system to scan what’s below the road, down where there’s no snow at all, rather than parse wintry […]