Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

A Velodyne lidar sensor. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Inclement weather presents numerous challenges for AVs, including sensor obstructions caused by raindrops and ice — one reason U.S. developers most often test them in states with dry, sunny weather.

Why it matters: Obstructions from environmental conditions or physical damage to the sensor can impair an AV's navigation and decision-making, but developers are still learning how best to prevent and deal with them.

Background: Vehicles on the road today benefit from a century of development to ensure people can see to drive safely. Now, vehicles must adapt so computers can reliably see, too.

Yes, but: Current prototypes of AV systems are each different and proprietary. Even when data is collected and solutions are tested in adverse conditions, the insights aren't shared.

What we're watching: Companies are taking a variety of approaches to resolving sensor obstructions: Alchemy’s hydrophobic coatings, Mighty AI’s object detection and data training, SEEVA’s sensor scanner cleaning systems, Vaisala’s real-time road conditions data, and WaveSense’s ground-penetrating radar.

  • Applying coatings can reduce surface tension on sensor scanners, making it harder for moisture or debris to accumulate. But these coatings chip away over time, and developers are still working to extend their lifespan.
  • Multiple, redundant cameras and sensors can portray the 3D driving environment in real time, enabling an AV to operate safely even if one sensor is impaired (more testing is needed in cases of multiple sensor impairments, which may require the AV to stop driving). Greater connectivity among AVs will also help fill in these gaps in environmental awareness.
  • AVs will have to determine when a sensor is blocked and be able to clear it. Vehicles will need to trigger the delivery of hot washer fluid, air, and other cleaning mechanisms.

The bottom line: To operate safely in all environmental conditions, AVs will likely need a combination of different hardware and software solutions still in development.

Geoff Deane is the CTO of SEEVA Technologies, a company developing systems to keep AV sensors clear.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.