A few years back, Google started working on one of the first projects involving self-driving cars. Now, many car makers such as Tesla, Ford, and Volvo are developing self-driving cars of their own, and Google is beginning to fall behind. Their self-driving car, however, is continuing to be developed, and as time passes, new light is shed onto their efforts to complete the project. Recently, a new U.S. patent highlights one of the safety features that they may plan to implement into their vehicle.
The patent details sensors in the car that are capable of recognizing the lights of emergency vehicles, such as police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances. The sensors look specifically for red and blue flashing lights, and when emergency lights have been identified, they will move the car to the side of the road to allow the emergency vehicles to pass. Not only will this allow the emergency vehicles to move through traffic efficiently, but it will also reduce accidents caused by drivers not responding safely in emergency situations. The flashing lights and sirens that accompany emergency vehicles can create panic, causing drivers to respond before they can process the right approach to take to make room for the vehicles, which can result in accidents. Automating this process could make it safer for both parties, by eliminating human error.
While the technology behind self-driving cars in its current state is impressive, it is far from perfect, and will still have to undergo quite a bit of development in order to reach a point where a driver is no longer needed. Taking these unexpected types of situations into account will help to get it closer to that point. Google is not the only company working to improve the autonomy of self-driving vehicles. Ford is working on a self-driving transportation service, similar to Uber and Lyft, except completely driverless, and is aiming to deploy these vehicles as early as 2021. Consumers may be hesitant to trust their lives to autonomous vehicles, however, in most cases they have actually proven safer than human drivers, so with developments like Google's emergency vehicle recognition, it may not be long before fully autonomous vehicles hit the roads.