A Waymo van learns how to navigate parking lots. Photo: Waymo

Waymo's self-driving vans are learning to share the human driver hatred of shopping mall parking lots.

Why it matters: Parking lots are one of the most difficult environments for a self-driving car to master: unruly vehicles, darting pedestrians and the occasional runaway shopping cart contribute to a Wild West atmosphere.

What's happening: Waymo, a self-driving development company, is teaching its automated test vehicles how to navigate this chaotic environment by practicing on 91 acres at the former Castle Air Force base near Merced, Calif., Popular Science reports.

The state of play ... Engineers can dial up the complexity in a variety of ways:

  • They can control cars reversing out of parking spots, traveling the wrong way down a lane or cutting across empty spaces.
  • They can add people carrying large packages — which affects how the car's perception system sees them — and cause them to dart in front of the car's path.
  • They taught Waymo's vans to be cautious around dumpsters, which can obscure a shopping cart rolling out into traffic.

The bottom line: Just like on roadways, Waymo must map out the parking lot, including details like the orientation of angled parking stalls for cues about the direction of traffic.

  • Parking lots are uniquely challenging, Waymo's Stephanie Villegas tells Popular Science.
  • “They don’t really have standardized rules for how people should and can move about within them. They’re just kind of lawless."

Go deeper: Companies get innovative to fill in urban transportation gaps

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Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:45 p.m. ET: 19,282,972 — Total deaths: 718,851 — Total recoveries — 11,671,491Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:45 p.m. ET: 4,937,441 — Total deaths: 161,248 — Total recoveries: 1,623,870 — Total tests: 60,415,558Map.
  3. Politics: Trump says he's prepared to sign executive orders on coronavirus aid.
  4. Education: Cuomo says all New York schools can reopen for in-person learning.
  5. Public health: Surgeon general urges flu shots to prevent "double whammy" with coronavirus — Massachusetts pauses reopening after uptick in coronavirus cases.
  6. World: Africa records over 1 million coronavirus cases — Gates Foundation puts $150 million behind coronavirus vaccine production.

Warren and Clinton to speak on same night of Democratic convention

(Photos: Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton both are slated to speak on the Wednesday of the Democratic convention — Aug. 19 — four sources familiar with the planning told Axios.

Why it matters: That's the same night Joe Biden's running mate (to be revealed next week) will address the nation. Clinton and Warren represent two of the most influential wise-women of Democratic politics with the potential to turn out millions of establishment and progressive voters in November.

Trump considering order on pre-existing condition protections, which already exist

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

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Why it matters: The Affordable Care Act already requires insurers to cover pre-existing conditions. The Trump administration is currently arguing in a case before the Supreme Court to strike down that very law — including its pre-existing condition protections.