Avoiding squirrels, and other things Google's driverless car can't do

No It Can’t:

Take you to the mountains: Bad weather doesn’t just make traction control tricky, it change how the car sees the world around. Snow on the ground and water kicked up by other cars messes with the spinning laser that sits on the roof, while fog limits how far the radar can see. Fortunately, Google is doing the bulk of its testing the Bay Area, where it will get a lot of practice with fog. Ten bucks says engineers are lobbying for a trip to Tahoe–you know, for snow testing.

Go off the grid: Like a millennial, the car gets upset when it can’t get a cell signal, which give it access to Google’s bank of detailed maps and let it send new information back home. No worries if the connection is a bit slow, but if it drops out, the car will “do something safe,” Chris Urmson, the project director, said. He didn’t elaborate, so we’ll assume the car asks the human to take over, then focuses on other mission-critical tasks like finding a good radio station.

Understand traffic cops: The car will detect that “there’s a person standing in the middle of the road waving their hands in a funny way,” Software Lead Dmitri Dolgov said, but it won’t be able to decipher different hand motions. Rather, it will understand that something unusual is happening, and act conservatively, or ask the human at the wheel to take over.

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