Torc Robotics today completed solar eclipse testing on its fleet of self-driving vehicles. The car successfully drove through both highway and urban environments in Blacksburg, Virginia, which experienced a 91 percent eclipse.

While a solar eclipse is rare, the testing provided a valuable opportunity to test the technology during changing lighting conditions. Self-driving cars must be capable of entering or exiting a tunnel, detecting traffic lights in direct sunlight, and encountering high beam headlights at night from oncoming traffic, just to name a few examples.

“We’re constantly testing our cars in challenging environments while working with our commercialization partners to reduce the 1.2-million traffic fatalities a year,” says Torc CEO Michael Fleming.  “This is one of the many corner cases that we must address to make self-driving technology commonplace in society.”

Earlier this year, Torc completed 4,300 autonomous miles in its coast-to-coast self-driving trip from Washington, D.C., to Seattle, Washington, and back to Richmond, Virginia. Torc’s self-driving vehicles performed in West Virginia’s mountainous terrain in heavy rain, to the straight and flat plains of the dry Midwest region.

“Since our success in the DARPA Urban Challenge, we have spent more than a decade building upon our multi-modal sensor technology to solve self-driving challenges with OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers],” says Fleming. “Human drivers and camera systems have difficulty staring into the sun.  By integrating other sensors such as radar and LIDAR, we have a robust perception system.”