How do autonomous cars cope in the snow?

March 8, 2016

Driving in the snow can be the cause of treacherous conditions – visibility dramatically reduced by snowfall and ice on the road among the dangers.

But for self-driving cars to become a reality they have to be able to cope with all conditions – and that includes snow.

Find out more about how our autonomous research car deals with the white stuff.

1: Mapping the way

First driving a route in ideal weather, our autonomous research cars use scanners to create digital models of the road and surroundings. This helps to identify the car’s position in autonomous mode, including when the road is covered with snow

2: Data plan

Ford autonomous vehicles collect up to 600 gigabytes of data per hour to create the high-resolution 3D map of the landscape

3:Super smart sensors

Ford’s autonomous vehicles can even identify falling snowflakes or raindrops and recognise that they are not obstacles that the car needs to steer around

4:More accurate than GPS

Current GPS is accurate to around 10 metres. Ford’s autonomous vehicles can locate their position to within one centimetre

5:All-round view

Ford also uses cameras and radar to monitor the environment. This supports 360-degree awareness. Should one sensor be inactive, perhaps caused by ice, snow, grime or debris buildup on a sensor lens, autonomous driving is still possible

6: Our first self-driving star

Astrophysics graduate Wayne Williams never imagined he would be behind the wheel of the auto industry’s first publicly demonstrated autonomous snow test. “It wasn’t until after the test that the achievement began to sink in,” he said afterwards