Ford Invests in ‘Microweather’ Company to Aid Development of Self-Driving Tech

The American automaker thinks that weather prediction will be relevant to self-driving cars.

byStephen Edelstein|
Ford Invests in ‘Microweather’ Company to Aid Development of Self-Driving Tech

Ford's Smart Mobility division is investing in ClimaCell, a company that specializes in "microweather" technology capable of tracking location-specific, short-term weather patterns. The automaker has recently participated in a Series B funding round that raised $45 million for ClimaCell.

ClimaCell claims to use a much larger network of sensors than traditional weather forecasting, allowing it to focus more on specific areas, such as where a car may be, rather than entire regions. The company has developed weather-forecasting tools, including an HD weather map called HyperCast. ClimaCell claims airlines JetBlue and Delta among its existing customers. It plans to use its new funding to expand coverage to areas with no existing weather-forecasting infrastructure, including the developing world.

Ford sees ClimaCell's weather-forecasting ability as relevant to various technology initiatives, including the development of self-driving cars and new services under its FordPass program. Ford is developing what it calls a Transportation Mobility Cloud for data sharing, which could serve as a distribution network for real-time weather data.

"High-definition, microweather information supports multiple mobility and AV [autonomous vehicle] initiatives, including route planning, the services we can offer via FordPass, and sharing information via the Transportation Mobility Cloud," Marcy Klevorn, Ford's head of mobility, said in a statement. "In the future, real-time data will allow autonomous vehicles to be routed around bad weather."

Driving in bad weather can be difficult for humans, but it can be impossible for machines. Autonomous cars rely on an array of sensors that can be rendered ineffective by snow or rain. Future self-driving cars could even be impacted by solar storms, which could interrupt their GPS navigation. It just goes to show that implementing autonomous-driving tech will be a complicated process.