Waymo is taking some of its autonomous vehicles to Florida just in time for hurricane season to begin testing in heavy rain.
The move to Florida will focus on testing how its myriad sensors hold up during the region’s rainy season, as well as to collect data. All of the vehicles will be manually driven by trained drivers.
Waymo will bring both of its autonomous vehicles, the Chrysler Pacificas and a Jaguar I-Pace, to Naples and Miami, Fla. for testing, according to a blog posted Tuesday. Miami is one of the wettest cities in the U.S., averaging 61.9 inches of rain annually.
The self-driving car company, which is a business under Alphabet, began testing its autonomous vehicles in and around Mountain View, Calif., before branching out to other cities and weather, including Novi, Mich., Kirkland, Wash. and San Francisco. But the bulk of the company’s activities have been in suburbs of Phoenix and around Mountain View — two places with lots of sun, and even blowing dust, in the case of Phoenix.
Waymo opened a technical center Chandler, Ariz. and started testing there in 2016. Since then, the company has ramped up its testing, and launched an early rider program in April 2017 as a step toward commercial deployment.
The company will spend the next several weeks driving on a closed course in Naples to test its sensor suite , which includes lidar, cameras and radar . Later in the month, Waymo plans to bring its vehicles to public roads in Miami. A few Waymo vehicles will be collecting data on highways between Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers and Miami.
Waymo is hardly the only autonomous vehicle company to take advantage of Florida’s AV-friendly regulations. Ford and Argo AI, the self-driving company it backs, have had a presence in the Miami area since early 2018. Argo AI began collecting data and mapping, and has since expanded to testing in autonomous mode last summer.
Last year, Ford partnered with Walmart and Postmates to test the business of delivering goods like groceries and pet food using self-driving vehicles. The pilot project is focused on Miami-Dade County.