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Waymo rolls down to Florida to test its self-driving cars in heavy rain

Florida might be called The Sunshine State, but it's plenty soggy.

Sufficiently soggy.


In order to ensure its self-driving vehicles can handle a variety of weather conditions, Waymo has extended beyond its original testing base in California. The Google spinoff has established a big ol' base in Michigan for winter testing among other things, and now it's heading to a place that has plenty of rain.

Waymo said on Tuesday that it has commenced heavy rain testing with its vehicles in Florida. In a Medium post announcing the new testing location, the company said it will bring both of its development vehicles to The Sunshine State -- that means the Waymo-liveried Jaguar I-Pace will be testing on Floridian roads alongside the usual fleet of Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

In the summer, Miami averages nearly 62 inches of rain, Waymo notes, with some of the angriest weather in the country. That makes it a great place to rain-test its autonomous vehicles. Rain might seem like it's no big deal, but Waymo's Medium post points out that rain can create noise in its cars' sensors, and when the roads get wet, people start behaving and driving differently. It's these kinds of difficulties that AVs will need to learn to handle, so Miami sounds like as good a place as any for this kind of development regimen.

Waymo's efforts in Florida will start on a closed course in Naples, where the company will torture-test its sensors and cameras in the driving rain. Following that initial round of development work, Waymo will put its cars on public roads around Miami, although the vehicles will remain human-driven as the company collects more data.

Over the last few years, Waymo has taken its fleet of self-driving development cars to Arizona, California, Michigan and Washington. Florida will likely gain popularity among self-driving-car developers, thanks to a recently enacted law that makes it easier for companies to bring AVs to Florida, lifting regulations and restrictions that might have stood in the way before.

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