Google’s Driverless Cars Are Coming to Kirkland, WA, Will Face Hills and Rain

Google is taking its autonomous test cars all the way to the Northern part of the West Coast, adding Kirkland, Washington, to the three-strong list of towns where its vehicles are getting more and more miles under their belts.
Google Lexus RX450h 1 photo
Photo: Runner1928
Before this latest agreement, Google’s cars could only be seen driving through Mountain View, California, and Austin, Texas. Moving way up North will bring new challenges for the self-driving vehicles, adding to their bags of tricks.

Google is currently operating a fleet of 22 Lexus SUVs and 33 prototype cars. Word has it that the technology giant isn’t interested in bringing the small, house-built bubble cars to Kirkland, which only leaves the Japanese hybrid SUV as a possible candidate.

Switching to a higher latitude means that Google’s car will be facing more adverse weather for the first time, and it’s a well-known fact that precipitations can sometimes interfere with the various sensors mounted on the vehicles, and particularly the LIDAR.

Another new feature waiting to welcome Google’s driverless cars is the city’s hilly roads, providing the engineers with a chance to test the sensors at various elevations and angles.

Google is taking the long route here, easing its cars into more and more diverse situations. After starting off in the flat and dry areas of Mountain View and Austin, it is now giving its cars more to chew on by adding different weather conditions as well as a more varied terrain. Of course, the fact that it already had a development center in Kirkland must have also helped when making the decision to go for the Washington state city.

Preparing for the arrival of the rest of the fleet, one of the Lexus SUVs has been driving around Kirkland for the past few weeks mapping the area and gathering as much info as possible for its siblings.

It’s not really the circus, but having Google’s autonomous vehicles come to town is definitely a big moment, and Kirkland’s officials can hardly hide their excitement: "Kirkland is a town that prides itself on being open to new technologies that could help improve our daily lives," says Amy Walen, Kirkland’s Mayor, quoted by The Verge. "We are excited about the potential self-driving cars have to reduce accident rates and to provide mobility for people who can't get around easily."

It’s hard to tell what the next generation is going to be for Google’s autonomous cars, but they will most definitely not stop here. A crowded city, maybe? Too early? We’ll see.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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