Weather still a challenge to autonomous vehicles
In the drive towards full autonomy, vehicle makers and solutions providers must tackle a nearly impossible variety of factors.
Some of these, often necessarily, are more attention-grabbing than others but there are numerous ones just as critical that don’t typically appear in auto technology headlines. One is the weather, which is somewhat odd because information about weather and its effect on road conditions has been crucial ever since humankind has climbed into a car. In our ‘assisted driving’ age, that need remains acute and experts say it will be more so as we move up the levels of autonomy. Fortunately, with increasingly robust vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology, weather data and forecasts can be delivered ever more effectively.
To explore this subject, TU-Automotive spoke to Bill Gail, CEO and co-founder of Global Weather Corporation, a company that concentrates on the delivery of weather data services.
Why is weather data analysis and dissemination critical for upper-level assisted driving and, ultimately, autonomous operation?
“Automated vehicles (lower or upper level) don’t operate well in poor weather conditions, such as fog or snowy roads. Many people believe it will be a long time before they can do so. Weather information can be a key element of safety-critical AV decisions, such as disengagement and operational domain designation – even simpler functions such as lane management. Weather information can be the difference between an autonomous vehicle (or vehicle function) that continues to operate properly and one that does not.”
Why is it important for V2V technology to include weather reporting?
“V2V can play an important role in weather information, particularly reporting of just-ahead road conditions. Vehicles that reliably report friction or slippery roads can report those conditions to vehicles behind them. Doing so requires in-vehicle processing to generate the relevant weather information but it is possible. One challenge is that vehicle sensors, other than temperature, don’t directly measure weather variables. For example, road friction sensors tell you that a road is slippery but can’t say the slipperiness is because the road is snowy or wet.”
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