Car Washes for Self-Driving Cars

CNN has an amusing story about the difficulty of washing a self-driving car with hundreds of thousands of dollars of sensors bolted on the roof.

The story mainly hooks on Avis and the special cleaning techniques they have contracted to perform for Waymo’s self-driving cars. They have to be really careful!

“For example, soap residue or water spots could effectively “blind” an autonomous car. A traditional car wash’s heavy brushes could jar the vehicle’s sensors, disrupting their calibration and accuracy. Even worse, sensors, which can cost over $100,000, could be broken.

A self-driving vehicle’s exterior needs to be cleaned even more frequently than a typical car because the sensors must remain free of obstructions. Dirt, dead bugs, bird droppings or water spots can impact the vehicle’s ability to drive safely.”

Washing Carla, Udacity’s self-driving car, is less of a challenge, because we can pretty easily dismount the roof-based lidar and store it in the trunk. And our cameras are inside the vehicle.

Still, we take Carla to our local brushless carwash every month, and each time I get a little terrified.

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