Why Driverless Cars Won’t Be Hitting Pedestrians

Read on ecnmag.com.

Texting and driving may soon become legal. (For autonomous cars, that is.)

Google has secured a patent that will enable driverless cars to talk to pedestrians via text (and audio), because with no driver in the car, how else will communicate?

Obviously when autonomous cars text and drive, it’s a little different than when human drivers do. In fact, they’re actually making it safer for everyone on the road.

The system is designed to enable self-driving cars to signal to pedestrians when it’s safe to cross in front of the vehicle.

According to the patent, Google plans to make its cars “more communicative” with light-up signs, along with audio cues, mechanical hands, and yes, “robotic eyes on the vehicle that allow the pedestrian to recognize that the vehicle ‘sees’ the pedestrian.” Well, that’s sort of creepy.

google pedestrians

The light-up signs, which appear on the front bumper or the side of the car, would say things like “safe to cross,” or “coming through.” If this voice sounds anything like my GPS and it’s shouting “coming through,” I’m running for my life.

The displays could also show a stop sign or a traffic sign, in addition to just plain text. Of course, the car will still need to make the decision to come to a complete stop, slow down and yield, or maintain its speed (but hopefully this advancement will reduce the latter scenario so we don’t need to revisit the who driverless cars should be programmed to kill debate.)

And about that creepy robotic hand I mentioned. It’s meant to mimic human gestures, like waving to someone, giving them the go ahead to cross. I do wonder though, how long it will be before it adopts some of the less friendly gestures our human drivers so frequently use.

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