Waymo testing its self-driving cars in Death Valley
Waymo self-driving cars are now being tested in one of the hottest places on planet earth, the desert Death Valley California. Yes Death Valley is an extremely hot desert, and the Waymo team are putting the cars to the heat test there.
Testing a vehicle with self-driving sensors in a region that holds the record for the hottest air temperature ever recorded on earth (134 °F (56.7 °C) is no joke.However Waymo is conducting the heat testing to make sure you don’t get stranded or left frustrated riding in its autonomous vehicle in the desert; as heat could cause the car to run at low level. Here’s what Waymo Senior Thermal Engineer Simon Ellgas, who is currently in Death Valley, said about the thermal testing.
Why is it important to test Waymo’s self-driving cars in extreme heat?
This type of testing is standard in the automobile industry. But when you add self-driving systems to a car — which generate their own additional heat — conducting rigorous testing to ensure your systems can withstand high temperatures is even more important. If you’ve used your cell phone in the bright sun on a hot day you may have experienced it shutting down. Our self-driving system needs to be much more reliable than your typical home electronics. This type of testing allows us to be confident our vehicle can cool itself and continue to operate under the hottest temperatures, even with an engine running at full power and our systems running at full capacity.
What goes on when heat testing a self-driving car?
We’ve been heat testing our latest Chrysler Pacifica cars for almost a year, starting with what’s called a drive cell, or aerothermal wind tunnel. Using the drive cell we can mimic almost any weather condition, including the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the country. After extensive testing in this controlled environment we’re then ready to put our cars through their paces on public roads.
The goal for this trip was to run our cars in as many driving conditions as possible, all in extreme heat. That means stop-and-go traffic, idling for long periods of time, sloped roads, and more. In testing we closely monitor our systems by taking over 200 different measurements per second in order to confirm our in-house sensor suite continues to function as intended. As well as ensuring our vehicles are happy in all that heat, we keep an eye on cabin temperature so our passengers will be comfortable too.
What did you learn from testing?
Our testing confirmed the results of our drive cell work: our hardware is road-ready for extreme heat. By pushing our car to its limits in testing, we can rest assured that no matter where our riders choose to drive — even if that’s in the middle of the desert, on a sunny day, with the air conditioning on full blast — Waymo’s cars will still be able to get them where they need to go.
Credit Waymo, OkGoogleDrive