Drivers yell at pedestrians all of the time. Why shouldn’t self-driving cars do the same? Judging from a patent recently granted to the tech company, Google’s driverless vehicles may soon do exactly that.
The drawing-packed U.S. patent, awarded last week, sheds some much-anticipated light on how Google’s autonomous car could interact with pedestrians. And, by the looks of it, the cute little whip won’t always quietly roll on by.
If, for example, the external loudspeaker concept laid out in the patent is added to the car’s design, the vehicle will be able to bark out amplified alerts, like “safe to cross” and “coming through.” (We can’t help but wonder what the car might say to the cops in the event of a pull over. Or to the human drivers who dare cut it off or, worse, hit it.)
Canned audible warnings may not be the only way Google’s self-driving ride will “talk” with pedestrians. Also on the table: electronic video screens attached to the car's sides -- and potentially on its bumper, roof and hood -- displaying various traffic sign-like images. The graphics would inform pedestrians of when it’s okay to safely cross the roadway in front of the vehicle. Robotic hands that signal to pedestrians and robotic eyes that let pedestrians know it “sees” them are additional possibilities.
Even if Google’s driverless cars become adept communicators, you bet we’re still going to stop, look and listen before crossing the road near one.