Surprising elements affecting self-driving cars

In recent years, we have been reading a lot about self-driving cars, and there is no shortage of promising, enticing details. We hear that they could reduce accidents caused by drunk, drowsy or distracted drivers; we learn that they can react faster than humans; we are told they could revolutionize the transportation industry. Understandably, a lot of people are eager to get self-driving vehicles out on the roads.

However, while Ohioans may be ready for automated cars, the cars may not be ready for Ohio.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, self-driving cars are performing well in tests, except when those tests involve certain elements from Mother Nature. Reportedly, animals and weather are causing problems for the sensors and technology in automated vehicles.

Rain, fog, sleet and anything more than a dusting of snow can make cameras and lidar technology ineffective. Autonomous cars can be unable to “see” through dense fog or precipitation, and they may not be able to accurately calculate distance when sensors are bouncing off snowflakes instead of actual obstacles.

Animals are also creating problems. The article notes that while automated vehicles can identify obstacles in the roadways, they cannot always tell the difference between an animal – like a bird – in the street or a pedestrian. This had led to automated cars coming to a complete stop, waiting for the obstacle to move.

Solutions are certainly in development, including ground-piercing sensors and programs that could allow vehicles to slowly approach an unknown object or better identify the object in the first place. One company is currently testing software more effectively filters out precipitation in cities with a lot of snow and rain.

However, until these technologies are examined and tested more thoroughly, it is impossible to say with certainty when we might see automated vehicles on Ohio roads. In the meantime, safe driving remains in the hands of individual motorists.

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