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Ford is getting a head start on making their autonomous cars feel at home in the snow, a condition that can be tricky for driverless vehicle systems. The winter weather coats the ground, covering up lane markers, signs and other features the cars use to navigate the road — and, of course, it's slippery.
"In the real world you don't always have perfect sunny weather," said Ford's director of autonomous vehicles and controls, Randy Visintainer, in a video put out by the company.
Until now, testing has largely been done under good conditions in sunny states like California, Nevada and Texas. Google's driverless cars only recently encountered rain, and had to be outfitted with tiny wipers for their sensors.
"It's important to test in weather like snow," Visintainer said, "but also to let the public know we are looking at these conditions."
Ford's cars memorize the positions of signs and other landmarks, allowing them to locate themselves to within a centimeter in places the system has mapped.
The company's cars are cruising around MCity, a fake couple of city blocks built by the University of Michigan specifically for testing autonomous vehicles.