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AV myth buster: Sunshine or bust

Autonomous vehicles are surrounded by myth and conjecture. We’re here to set the story straight in this series of myth busters. Learn about May Mobility’s commitment to get you to where you are going, no matter the weather.

When you read news about autonomous vehicles, it’s quite easy to notice a trend. Most of the vehicles are handling city streets within the Sunbelt, such as in California and Arizona. And there’s a good reason for that. It’s a lot easier to drive when it’s a clear, sunny day. When the weather goes sour, many drivers don’t even want to get behind the wheel if they don’t have to. Because of that, many people assume that AVs can only handle clear skies and dry streets. But that is a myth we are ready to bust.

By deploying our vehicles outside of the Sunbelt, we’ve been able to train our vehicles to navigate various weather patterns. Here’s how it works.

Rain, snow and shine

Even though a sunny day is the ideal time for anyone to drive, it’s not the only time that AVs can navigate successfully. We aim to build the best autonomous technology and make it accessible to everybody. And to make sure everybody can benefit from the technology, we can’t let a little bit of weather get in the way. Rain, snow or shine, our goal is to get you to where you’re going and back again.

One reason why our autonomous vehicles are ready to handle a variety of climates is because of our Multi-Policy Decision Making (MPDM) autonomous technology. A combined sensor stack made up of multiple lidar, radar and cameras detects objects, motion and velocity all around the vehicle. It then sends this data to the vehicle’s computer where the perception stack can form lists of objects used to create an understanding of the vehicle’s surroundings. This information is then sent to our MPDM system so that it can make educated decisions from the data received.

One reason our MPDM is unique from other AV tech is because of its ability to process thousands of scenarios every second, picking out the best option to keep its riders safe. So, even when there is rain or snow, our sensors can deliver detailed data points that help our MPDM software to accurately analyze the situation and minimize risk while the AV travels to its destination. By allowing our vehicles to experience changes in weather and climate, we’ve been able to consistently test MPDM’s ability to navigate various weather patterns, which helps our platform to constantly learn and improve.

Case in point: Grand Rapids, MN

Our deployment in Grand Rapids, Minnesota is a great example of the work we are doing in locations with varying climates. In Grand Rapids, our AVs face a variety of weather conditions throughout the year and we strive to tackle them all. We don’t want to shut down our autonomous operations or drop our speed limits unnecessarily. So we need to be able to adapt. For example, our Grand Rapids deployment experiences adjustments based on the time of year. Our field autonomy engineers are key to making this happen. By mapping out the area during different seasons, a better understanding of road conditions can be achieved and transit routes adjusted to best accommodate our riders due to potential changes in weather. Using that data, our AVs will always be able to take the optimal route to their destinations, even when it’s snowing outside.

And no, we aren’t planning to drive in a blizzard. We hope you don’t either. But because of our unique approach and proprietary technology, our AVs don’t need to move at a snail's pace in the rain or snow. As seen in Grand Rapids, and some of our other deployments, May Mobility AVs are able to monitor road conditions, snow banks, and more. Depending on the situation, our MPDM will adjust the vehicle’s speed on a case-by-case basis that gets you to your destination both efficiently and safely.

So, if you don’t live somewhere along the Sunbelt, don’t worry; our autonomous microtransit system is still a great fit for your community. If you’d like to learn more about how our AVs can help fill your transit gaps and provide mobility to underserved communities, get in touch!

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