Despite the fact that numerous big automakers have been working on developing autonomous vehicles for years, Google still seems to be the most innovative player when it comes to the emerging self-driving technology. The latest proof of that fact is one of Google's recently filed patents which allows autonomous cars to accurately detect emergency vehicles such as police car and ambulance vans. The main idea behind this technology is to make self-driving cars even safer, i.e. to give them all of the necessary data they need to avoid emergency vehicles in the safest manner possible. As the current crop of self-driving vehicles doesn't exactly distinguish between emergency services and other vehicles, something like a police car rushing to a crime scene that is violating traffic laws may prove to be a problem for autonomous cars.
Well, Google's representatives are confident the company found a solution to that problem. According to the Mountain View-based company, this new technology doesn't only minimize traffic delays for emergency vehicles but also reduces the risk of possible traffic accidents. The patent is based on the use of special filters which detects the red and blue emergency vehicle lighting. Once Google's car has detected the location of a speeding emergency vehicle, it performs the necessary maneuvers to get out of the way without endangering the traffic. Another cool thing about these sensors is the fact that they can distinguish whether the lights are flashing or not, i.e. whether there's an emergency or not and they can even identify the actual vehicle by detecting the number of emergency lights and spacing between them.
This is yet another step towards Google's goal of making its self-driving technology as safe as possible in an effort to convince legislators to allow a commercial launch of autonomous vehicles in the near future. Reports from late 2015 suggested that production of Google's self-driving cars may start as soon as 2017 with the goal of making the vehicles commercially available by 2018. However, that seems less likely today after Google's test cars were involved in several traffic accidents in recent months, some of which were caused by sensor problems and software issues.