Google is bringing its self-driving car project to Kirkland, Washington. According to Fortune, Google chose the city because it has a temperate climate with seasonal rain, so they can start testing the car in wetter environments. Because it’s hilly, they can also test their sensors and controls at different angles and elevations. This is all part of their plan to have self-driving cars available for sale by 2020.
Before testing can be considered complete, they need to test against all sorts of conditions, including rain, snow, mud, and dry windy situations. Just as all of these factors can affect our ability to see the road and navigate, the company has to ascertain how it will affect their sensors. The company uses laser sensors, which can detect rain, they need to teach the cars how to “see through” raindrops so that it doesn’t affect their ability to detect other objects.
According to Fortune, Kirkland is on Lake Washington, about 11 miles northeast of Seattle, which receives about 38.6 inches of precipitation each year. Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. is considerably drier with about 14.7 inches of annual rainfall. Google already has an office in Kirkland, which was established more than a decade ago, according to Jennifer Haroon, head of business operations for the Google self-driving car project.