As car manufacturers continue to develop and test new technologies that are designed to make driving easier and safer, Google has filed a patent application that gives new insight into its plans for a self-driving car.

Google’s car will use a range of sensors to ensure it operates safely, taking into account other road users as well as road conditions.  In particular, its latest patent demonstrates how it will use sensors, radar and a camera to collect data about objects that surround the car – including cyclists.  This data will be processed to tell the car whether the cyclist is signalling an intention to turn, or changing speed, and react accordingly.  Using calibration data that includes the typical height of a cyclist, and its position in relation to the pavement, sensors placed at different points on the car should be able to detect when a cyclist is present and monitor its movements to ensure the car can move around it safely.

Patent Does Not Reveal All

As much of the technology for Google’s self-drive car is in its infancy and is also being developed and tested in conjunction with other companies, this patent – and others like it filed by the company – do not reveal everything about how the car will operate.  Instead, Google is protecting what it can at this stage in order to begin to put some of the elements into pre-production models; the company would like to see some form of self-driving car on the roads before 2020.

Of course, Google is not the only company to be investigating how technology can both improve driver experience and road safety.  Increasingly, automotive companies are adding enhanced technology to their production cars, and are working on more complex innovations for future models.  These companies will also be making sure they patent their own inventions when appropriate to maintain a competitive advantage.

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