Google’s self-driving cars acknowledge bicyclists


Google’s self-driving cars are designed to recognize cyclists as unique users of the road who require their own set of considerations. It can be hard for drivers to anticipate all their movements, but Google claims their self-driving cars do just that and thus that they can safely share the road with cyclists.

The monthly report of the Google Self-Driving Car Project for June 2016 explains that the cars are taught to drive conservatively around cyclists on the road. When the car’s sensors detect a parallel-parked car with an open door near a cyclist, it is programmed to slow down or nudge over to give the rider enough space to move towards the center of the lane and avoid the door. The project also aims to give cyclists ample buffer room when the self-driving car passes.

Recognize indications

The cars won’t squeeze by when cyclists take the center of the lane, even if there’s technically enough space. Whether the road is too narrow or they’re making a turn, the cars are designed to respect the indication that cyclists want to claim their lane. This also goes when a cyclist indicates by hand that he or she intends to make a turn. Furthermore, the cars are able to recognize all of the many varieties of bicycles that people are using.

The fact that the cars can see 360 degrees helps them being aware of everything that goes on around them. In one instance, this helped avoiding a serious collision. A car was cautiously approaching a cyclist that veered into it’s lane and stopped when another cyclist suddenly turned a corner and drove towards the car against the direction of traffic. It was an unusual situation but the car adapted to it, Google states.

Two minor indicents

The project consists of 24 Lexus SUV’s and 34 Google prototype vehicles driving the roads in and around four cities in the US. Since the start of the project the self-driving cars have accumulated almost 1,726,000 miles on autonomous mode and nearly 1.159.000 miles on manual mode. Even with all the technology focused on avoiding collisions, sometimes accidents are inevitable. In June, there were two minor incidents, both with little or no damage and no injuries. In one case, the self-driving car was mildly touched while being overtaken. The other collision involved a self-driving car that was stopped at a red light for about a minute when it was rear-ended by another vehicle at approximately 3 miles per hour.

Author: Vincent Krabbendam

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