This self-driving car looks under the road for a safety boost in rain and snow

On Monday, academics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) published research on how to make driverless cars safer, and their method bypasses cameras and LIDAR completely.

The system harnesses existing technologies known as “ground-penetrating radar” (GPR) to send electromagnetic pulses underground. The radar measures the road’s combination of soil, roots, and rock, creating an alternative ‘map’ of the ground’s composition.

The map, made up of underground fingerprints, can help orient a car, no matter the weather conditions.

The team used a GPR system developed at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory called localizing ground-penetrating radar (LGPR). During tests taking place over the course of six months, CSAIL found that the margin of error was roughly an inch off in snow, in comparison to clear weather.

The LGPR actually had more trouble in heavy rain, accounting for a rough margin of error of 5.5 inches.