Waymo Takes Its Driverless Cars To Death Valley For Extreme-Heat Testing

Alphabet’s driverless car unit, Waymo, has revealed that it has been trying out how its autonomous cars work in extreme weather conditions. Waymo’s self-driving cars have already been tested out in South Lake Tahoe’s snowy terrain and were more recently tested in Death Valley, California – a place with one of the highest temperatures in the world.

Though testing of cars in extreme heat conditions is a standard exercise in the motor vehicle sector, it is even more critical in autonomous cars since they have technology which generates heat by itself.

“If you’ve used your cell phone in the bright sun on a hot day you may have experienced it shutting down. Our self-driving system needs to be much more reliable than your typical home electronics,” said Waymo’s senior thermal engineer, Simon Ellgas, in a blog post.

Chrysler Pacificas

According to Google driverless-car company, the testing has been taking place for most of this year. The cars that have been used in this case are the Chrysler Pacificas. Prior to heading to California’s Death Valley, the cars had been taken on a trip that lasted three days to Las Vegas.

The trip, which originated in Davis Dam which sits on the border between Arizona and Nevada, allowed the cars to experience desert driving conditions under a hot sun. And in Las Vegas the cars were tested out in the intense heat in city-driving conditions with lots of traffic and busy lanes. After the tests Waymo’s engineers are of the opinion that the company’s cars can be able to handle infernal conditions.

Legal battle

The progress being enjoyed by Waymo in the driverless car space comes amidst a legal battle with Uber over allegations that the ride-hailing company stole trade secrets from the former. In a new development last week, Uber Technologies told investors that it was expecting Waymo to settle before the start of the trial which is scheduled for October this year.

If Waymo agrees to a settlement, it could reduce the reputational damage to Uber since the details will most likely be confidential. But if Waymo refuses to settle and the case goes to trial what happens thereafter will depend on the outcome of the legal battle. Should Waymo win the lawsuit, the damages that Uber is likely to incur will probably shadow the amount of money that the ride-hailing firm spent to acquire Otto, a driverless truck company, and its founder Anthony Levandowski who is at the heart of the trade secrets-theft case.