TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Waymo plans to open a new testing site in Ohio for its driverless autonomous vehicles that will focus on dense, urban areas, the company said Tuesday.
The new site being built at the Transportation Research Center near Columbus will allow the company to work on motion control testing, heavy-duty truck testing and testing in varying weather conditions, the company said.
Waymo’s main testing facility is near Merced, California. While it has conducted testing in several other states, this will be its first permanent location at a third-party test site.
It plans to open the new center in Ohio sometime in the middle of next year.
Waymo, a unit of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is seen by many as the leader in autonomous vehicle technology. In October, it expanded its ride hailing service in Phoenix to use more vehicles that have no back-up drivers behind the wheel.
Operating its self-driving vehicles in inclement weather has been an ongoing challenge.
The company has been working on snow and wet roads in the Detroit area and heavy rain and fog in Florida and San Francisco, Patrick Cadariu, Waymo’s head of supply chain operations, said during the summer.
The testing site at the Transportation Research Center in Ohio will be designed with various types of terrain, including hills, along with dense, urban environments, the company said.
The research center in East Liberty, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Columbus, opened a $45 million testing ground for self-driving vehicles last year.
It features roads and structures intended to replicate high-speed intersections, rural roads and urban areas normally encountered by drivers. Officials say the facility is among the most advanced in North America.