The goal will be to see how the vehicle's sensor suite – which includes lidar, cameras and radar – endures during Florida's hurricane season. "Heavy rain can create a lot of noise for our sensors. Wet roads can also cause other road users to behave differently. Testing lets us understand the unique driving conditions and get a better handle on how rain affects our own movements as well. in a blog post.
Waymo will test the cars for several weeks on a closed course in Naples. Human drivers will then test the vehicles on public roads in Miami. The vehicles will then take the highways between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami.
Mother Nature's features pose an obstacle to all self-driving cars. A study from Michigan State University found that even little rain can confuse the algorithms that self-driving systems use to detect pedestrians and other road users. Self-driving vehicles still do not know how to adapt to slippery road conditions in the same way that human drivers do, and take extra steps to slow down well in advance. Bad weather is not the only factor keeping self-driving cars from being ready for prime time. The Verge reported earlier this year that Waymo cars in Arizona are still confused by crowded parking lots and unprotected left turns. Hopefully more aggressive testing rounds can help make these vehicles ready for the road.