Google’s self-driving car dodges pedestrians

Google’s self-driving car can understand cyclists’ hand signals and dodge pedestrians, the company revealed.

The company has been taking the autonomous car on public roads since 2012, and has now clocked up 700,000 miles driving around its hometown in Mountain View, California.

The team behind the research has been working on improving its city driving, with project director Chris Urmson stating that city driving is “more complex” than freeway driving, because of the many “different objects” moving into the road under their own rules.

That includes jaywalking pedestrians, cars exiting from driveways, trucks blocking lanes and more.

“We’ve improved our software so it can detect hundreds of distinct objects simultaneously – pedestrians, buses, a stop sign held up by a crossing guard, or a cyclist making gestures that indicate a possible turn,” Urmson said in a blog post. “A self-driving vehicle can pay attention to all of these things in a way that a human physically can’t – and it never gets tired or distracted.”

Urmson says that the “chaotic and random” activity on city streets is “actually fairly predictable to a computer”.

“As we’ve encountered thousands of different situations, we’ve built software models of what to expect, from the likely (a car stopping at a red light) to the unlikely (blowing through it),” he said. “We still have lots of problems to solve, including teaching the car to drive more streets in Mountain View before we tackle another town, but thousands of situations on city streets that would have stumped us two years ago can now be navigated autonomously.”

The following video shows how the self-driving system works, and how it avoids pedestrians, parked trucks and cyclists:

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