Auto Driving in Snow

I don’t think it’s necessary to go to northern Finland to find a snow covered road and a snow storm, but it’s a lot more of a realistic stress test than driving around Silicon Valley. So that’s what the researchers at the VTT Technical Research Center of Finland did to demonstrate their technology.

Martti is one of two cars designed by VTT; it’s designed to handle rough and icy conditions, while its “spouse” Marilyn is made for more ordinary urban drives. Different situations call for different sensors and strategies — for instance, plain optical cameras perform poorly on snowy roads, and lidar is less effective, so Martti will rely more on radar. But Marilyn has a rear-mounted lidar for better situational awareness in traffic. Martii has three lidar sensors.

As the video reveals the results are impressive given the lack of lane markings and visual cues, but the key limitation is the speed. The maximum was set at 40 km/hr for the test which is a great start and given the conditions not that unrealistic, but unless different sensor packages are going to be used for different driving conditions which seems expensive to say the least, the challenges of driving at 100 km/hr plus will still present very different requirements.

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