Yandex wants to ensure its self-driving cars can survive the winter

It's proof autonomous cars can handle less-than-hospitable conditions.

Many self-driving car tests are conveniently run in warm, sunny climates where the road conditions are rarely less than ideal. But what about that significant chunk of the planet that gets snowfall? Yandex is finding out. The Russian internet giant has started testing its autonomous Prius cars in winter conditions around Moscow's suburbs to see how they fare when snow obscures the roads and ice makes traction difficult. The video you see here is highly edited, but it suggests that the driverless machines are up to the job -- they can stay in their lanes, come to smooth stops and brake for pedestrians.

These aren't the worst conditions a self-driving car could face. What about snowstorms and highway driving? Nonetheless, these experiments are important. If autonomous driving is going to enter the mainstream, it can't just work in balmy places like California or Singapore -- it has to function year-round in areas where snow may stick around for months. The whole point of a driverless car is to take the burden off of humans while improving safety, and that could be crucial in snowy countries where merely setting out on the road can be a risky endeavor.