Arizona is hot enough as it. But the Grand Canyon state is heating up as a hotbed of autonomous vehicle development as well, according to a report by Wired magazine. According to the story, autonomous systems developer Mobileye, fresh off its acquisition a couple of weeks ago by software giant Intel, has announced it will build a fleet of 100 autonomous vehicles and test the first of them on the public roads of the Copper State. In doing so, Mobileye joins Uber and Waymo, both of which are testing fleets of autonomous vehicles on roads around Tempe, and Phoenix.
What does Arizona have going for it that other states don’t? The primary reason seems to be the weather in the state, which, while scorching hot, throws very little in the way of fog and rain at autonomous cars, which greatly benefits camera systems and other sensors that guide autonomous vehicles down the road. The fact that it is also relatively close to Silicon Valley in California doesn’t hurt, either.
But another big plus, Wired notes, is the Wild West attitude the state has adopted when it comes to legislating autonomous vehicles. In fact, Wired calls Arizona “just about the most permissive regulatory climate in the United States,” and notes that California, for example, not only requires that companies apply for the right to run autonomous vehicles, but also to report crashes and how often a human driver takes the wheel.
One major limitation, however, is the fact that Arizona does not offer a lot of diversity in terms of climate, geography and traffic patterns. This can lead to a danger of designing autonomous vehicles that work extremely well in desert climates, and not so well in others. To avoid this risk, Wired notes that autonomous vehicle developers continue testing in other states as well, including California, Texas, Washington and Pennsylvania.
“Geographic diversity is very important as different regions have very diverse driving styles as well as different road conditions and signage,” Amnon Shashua, the incoming CEO and CTO of Mobileye, told Wired. “Our goal is to develop autonomous vehicle technology that can be deployed anywhere, which means we need to test and train the vehicles in varying locations.”