Autonomous cars confused by San Francisco’s fog

Driving in heavy fog is quite a challenge for humans, but it turns out that self-driving cars also find it quite tricky.

Submerged in heavy fog in San Francisco early Tuesday morning, five of Waymo’s fully driverless vehicles suddenly parked next to a residential street in what appeared to be a precautionary measure, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Another of his cars apparently stopped in the middle of the street, the outlet said.

Other vehicles were unable to pass as “bewildered motorists flashed their headlights and attempted to drive around the traffic jam,” the Chronicle said.

Traffic issues persisted until the fog lifted and self-driving cars were able to get back on the road.

Alphabet-backed Waymo confirmed the incident in a statement on Wednesday, saying that around 6 a.m., “several Waymo vehicles in San Francisco encountered very dense fog and decided to pull over temporarily.”

He said that after a “brief” stop his cars continued on their way, adding: “We have planned software updates to improve our fog and parking performance to deal with such situations at the moment. coming.”

San Francisco is of course famous for its fog, and a few years ago Waymo addressed the issue in a blog post. “Low clouds are iconic for the city, but they also pose several challenges for drivers, both human and autonomous,” he said. “Fog is finicky – it comes in a range of densities, it can be patchy, and it can affect a vehicle’s sensors differently. Sometimes we see fog thick enough to deposit tiny droplets on surfaces, like our sensors optics, while other times its micro-droplets simply form on our sensors, impacting how far we can see. Fog can also trap other particles, such as smoke from wildfires or gasoline pollution, creating fog or smog that is more opaque and difficult to see.

He said in the post that his fifth-generation imaging radar uses microwaves instead of light and can therefore see through things like fog and haze, while a new cleaning system has been designed to keep car sensors extra clean. But something clearly went wrong on Tuesday.

The incident is the latest in a growing list of incidents involving self-driving cars operated by both Waymo and General Motors-backed Cruise in San Francisco. The two companies are vying to become the first to offer full-fledged self-driving taxi services, and although they currently carry paying passengers, the vehicles still operate under strict rules while engineers continue to refine hardware and systems. software that powers them.

Just last month, an autonomous Cruise vehicle was involved in a low-speed collision when it became disoriented by the movement of an articulated bus. No one was injured in the accident. The incident led Cruise to issue a voluntary recall for his fleet of 300 cars so he could add a software update to their on-board computers to ensure this type of accident never happens again.

In another recent incident, the cameras and sensors of several cruiser cars apparently failed to pick up cables that fell during a storm and ended up get tangled up in them.

List of errors prompted San Francisco officials to call on regulators to slow down expanding pilot testing of self-driving cars in the city until the technology was further improved.

Keen to avoid stricter regulations, Waymo and Cruise point out that their autonomous vehicles have traveled more than a million miles in complex urban environments without serious injuries or fatalities, and that their respective autonomous systems are constantly being improved.

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