700,000 miles of testing has already been completed on the roads around Google’s Mountain View, California HQ – and while they have been safe, testers have discovered other drivers are taking advantage of the Google cars’ cautions approach.
Technical leader Nathaniel Fairfield told the San Jose Mercury News that “if you’re always yielding and conservative, basically everybody will just stomp on you all day.”
It means engineers are programming the Google cars to leave less space between the car in front on freeways, and have engineered new logic that lets the cars “inch forward decisively” at four-way crossings so other drivers don’t race them through it.
Driving ‘a social thing’
Technical leader Brian Torcellini said engineers are learning that “driving can be a social thing where you’re using your vehicle and a little bit of body language in your car to communicate with other drivers what your intentions are.
“So we’re now trying to teach the car different ways to fit in with society and the way that other people drive.”
All testing is currently being carried out in Google-branded Lexus RX hybrid SUVs, equipped with rooftop laser, radar, video cameras and a full battery of sensors. On California’s fully Google-mapped roads, the self-driving hybrids have become a familiar sight.
Google spokeswoman Katelin Jabbari confident that no Google Lexus self-driving car has received a traffic ticket or caused an accident.
They have, however, been rear-ended by other drivers on several occasions.