Google Files a Patent for Tech that Aids Self-Driving Cars Detect Emergency Vehicles

Posted by at 10:16 am on September 8, 2016


Google is working on a technology that would help its self-driving car sensors identify emergency vehicles, according to a newly published patent application.

At the core of the technology is the ability for a car to identify a set of lights and determine whether they are emergency vehicles or not, according to the patent.

“One or more computing devices may identify a set of light sources from an image based at least in part on one or more templates, and may filter the set of light sources in order to identify one or more light sources corresponding to a potential emergency vehicle,” Google writes. “Moreover, the one or more computing devices may determine whether any of the one or more light sources is flashing and whether any of the one or more light sources is associated with a particular type of the potential emergency vehicle.”

As PatentYogi discovered, the patented tech would allow a self-driving car to detect an oncoming emergency vehicle and yield.

Yielding to emergency vehicles might seem minor but is still critical to Google’s technology getting off the ground. A self-driving car needs to be able to know when a police or ambulance vehicle is coming in and how to respond in the event the people inside the car don’t do the same. Driving and stopping, in other words, aren’t enough.

“An approaching emergency vehicle, such as a police car, having engaged its flashing lights may need to be given priority and right-of-way on the road,” Google writes. “Thus, an autonomous vehicle may need to accurately detect and properly respond to approaching emergency vehicles.”

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