Testing of autonomous cars is generally limited to a specific area. There are even different rules in different U.S. states, but Continental and Magna have plans to test autonomous cars on a trip right across the U.S.-Canada border.
Those of you who have had the chance to cross a border checkpoint from the U.S. to Canada know it’s not always quick and easy. It can take only a few minutes in rural Vermont, but at busy checkpoints like the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel it can be a frustrating process.
Adding to the complexity of the situation are signs and road markings at a border crossing that are completely different than what you’ll find on the roads within a country. They pose a unique set of challenges that only increase once you make it across that border and even more new signs and road markings come into play.
The plan calls for an autonomous vehicle drive from southeastern Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario and it will be the first border-crossing of its kind. The car will use the usual combination of cameras, lidar, and radar to navigate the route and the two planned border crossings. Both the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and the Blue Water Bridge are part of the drive.
Michigan and Ontario have worked on autonomous technology together already, but this test is unique. Rather than simply collecting data on how the car is performing it’s collecting data on how well it adapts to changes in rules and regulations along a route.
Even if autonomous technology is capable of keeping you on the road and not driving you smack into a tree or another car, it needs to do more. It needs to be able to understand changes in road rules from completely new signage to changes in units of measurement.
If you drive from someplace where they use miles into an area where they use kilometers, then not adapting to what that number on the speed limit sign means could get you into serious trouble. These are the types of more complicated challenges autonomous cars must overcome.
They need to be technologically savvy enough to do the physical job of driving and keeping you safe while still being smart enough to understand changes in the environment and make the necessary adaptations. This test will see how well they manage those changes.