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Car and Driver: Google Patents Autonomous Car–to-Pedestrian Communication System

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Google autonomous signage patent

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The gestation of the fully autonomous car is turning up all manner of new hurdles. Google, which has tested its own, vaguely koala-esque self-driving car (it plans to supply systems to automakers rather than become a full automaker, however), has proposed a solution to one such problem: how autonomous cars will communicate with pedestrians. As the Washington Post discovered, the Silicon Valley giant has filed a patent to address the issue.

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Google autonomous signage patent

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Car-to-pedestrian communication is far more interesting than it sounds. It’s said that, were an autonomous car to approach a four-way stop, it would theoretically never “go” through the intersection, since it’d be constantly waiting on pedestrians or other traffic to cross in front of it. For self-driving cars to become a reality, they’re going to need to bone up on their assertiveness. Being able to communicate with foot traffic is a key step in the right direction, especially since people can’t make eye contact with or receive hand signals from a robotic car. At least not yet.

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Google autonomous signage patent

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Google’s patent, therefore, more or less involves a dynamic array of signage and audible warnings—which we had fun with in our own illustration at the top; that’s not part of Google’s patent—for self-driving cars. The first sentence in the patent’s abstract sums it up perfectly: “Aspects of the disclosure relate generally to notifying a pedestrian of the intent of a self-driving vehicle.” Illustrations included in the patent filing depict displays reading announcements such as “stop,” “safe to cross,” and a stick-figure with a line through it. Of course, these signs are clued in to their surroundings using the same sensors, cameras, and radar used for safe navigation rolling down the street.

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Cars and pedestrians interacting is a reality of modern life, but having autonomous cars creeping through downtown areas with the timidness of a 15-year-old on their learner’s permit isn’t the way forward. It’s somewhat ironic that in trying to eradicate the human driver from the equation, one of the greatest challenges facing autonomous-car developers remains humans.

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I've been communicating with pedestrians for decades. That's why we have roll down windows and middle fingers.

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Also have a horn too :lol: 

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