Google spinoff Waymo goes to Vegas for a hot time

Learning to steer clear of showgirls and blind-drunk bachelor-party bros in Las Vegas was not the primary reason Google self-driving-car spinoff Waymo headed to the City of Sin.

Nor was practicing tumbleweed-dodging skills in Death Valley the reason Waymo went to California’s most famous desert.

Nope, it was all about the heat.

“This type of testing allows us to be confident our vehicle can cool itself and continue to operate under the hottest temperatures, even with an engine running at full power and our systems running at full capacity,” Waymo said in a July 14 blog post.

“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.”

To heat-test its Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans, Waymo first went to Vegas, then to Death Valley, home to Furnace Creek, which set a world heat record in 1913: 134F.

“You know you’re in a real desert when the soles of your shoes start to melt and stick to the ground like chewing gum!,” Waymo senior thermal engineer Simon Ellgas said in the blog post.

The testing trip was intended to run the cars through “as many driving conditions as possible” in extreme heat.

“That means stop-and-go traffic, idling for long periods of time, sloped roads, and more,” Waymo said.

“As well as ensuring our vehicles are happy in all that heat, we keep an eye on cabin temperature so our passengers will be comfortable too.”

According to Waymo, its cars can handle infernal conditions.

“Our testing confirmed the results of our (heat-able wind tunnel) work: our hardware is road-ready for extreme heat,” the company said.

“By pushing our car to its limits in testing, we can rest assured that no matter where our riders choose to drive — even if that’s in the middle of the desert, on a sunny day, with the air conditioning on full blast — Waymo’s cars will still be able to get them where they need to go.”


Photo: Las Vegas (Wikimedia Commons/Moyan Brenn)


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