Like others, Argo is attempting to develop that assertiveness by better predicting what other road users will do in a given situation. If its systems cannot make advanced plans for what a pedestrian or other vehicle will do, developers are left playing it safe by placing too great a protective distance around vehicles, which subsequently leads to timid behavior.
In concert with a fortified prediction engine, Argo is ensuring that its cars have a better grasp of their situational awareness. If a traffic light turns yellow, for example, a self-driving system must instantly understand whether it can cross and clear an intersection before the light turns red. But that's not all.
"If we see a yellow light and slam on the brakes, we might get rear-ended," Rander said. "But if I blow through the intersection and the light turns red, I may not get rear-ended, but I might violate the law, and that's not acceptable either."
That's a conundrum Rander and Argo will encounter anywhere. But in Miami, it's just one factor in a city with dead-ends on roads that maps show as joining others, where road construction started in nine separate places along one Argo route, and where cars and bicyclists routinely go the wrong way down one-way streets. If Ford and Argo wanted a challenge, they found one.
Jeff Brandes, a Florida state senator who has encouraged autonomous-vehicle testing on state roads, carried on the ski slope comparison.
"This is a double black-diamond city," says Brandes. "It is a hard city to operate in. There's no one day in Miami. Every day is different."