Google made a bit of news earlier in the year when it was testing driver-less cars and now it seems that it has been awarded a patent for their work. Officially called Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode this mouthful of words means that Google now owns the intellectual property for how a vehicle switches between being driven by a human being and a computer.
The patent was originally filed back in May 2011 and talks about two sensors, including something called “landing strip” which is for when a vehicle comes to a stop.
Apparently this “landing strip” could be anything from a mark on the ground, on the wall, or even a QR code. The strip would be the reference point that would confirm the exact location to its own electronic brain and therefore change into autonomous mode.
A GPS receiver would first give the car a general location of the car, while the sensors would look for landmarks to narrow it down accurately. GPS receivers are accurate to about 30 feet in some situations, which isn’t close enough for autonomous driving.
The landing strips could also be programmed to instruct the vehicle how long to wait before driving off again, to let passengers being dropped off take their luggage out of the trunk, for example. Other sensors could ascertain how far away humans are from the car before it safely moves off.
I don’t know about you but I’m not sure that sitting back an letting a car drive itself is that good of an idea right now. Safer maybe but definitely not ready for general consumer acceptance.