Driving in Snow is a Team Effort for AI Sensors

Nobody likes driving in a blizzard, including autonomous vehicles. To make self-driving cars safer on snowy roads, engineers look at the problem from the car’s point of view.

A major challenge for fully autonomous vehicles is navigating bad weather. Snow especially confounds crucial sensor data that helps a vehicle gauge depth, find obstacles and keep on the correct side of the yellow line, assuming it is visible. Averaging more than 200 inches of snow every winter, Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula is the perfect place to push autonomous vehicle tech to its limits. In two papers presented at SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing 2021, researchers from Michigan Technological University discuss solutions for snowy driving scenarios that could help bring self-driving options to snowy cities like Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Toronto.

Just like the weather at times, autonomy is not a sunny or snowy yes-no designation. Autonomous vehicles cover a spectrum of levels, from cars already on the market with blind spot warnings or braking assistance, to vehicles that can switch in and out of self-driving modes, to others that can navigate entirely on their own. Major automakers and research universities are still tweaking self-driving technology and algorithms. Occasionally accidents occur, either due to a misjudgment by the car’s artificial intelligence (AI) or a human driver’s misuse of self-driving features.

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