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Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google’s self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

In a bid to prevent another crash involving one of its self-driving cars, Google has been working on fitting them with their own horns – and making sure they understand when to use them.

Unlike the majority of human drivers, the self-driving cars won’t use the horn when it gets impatient with another motorist, but to alert them of its presence.

They could even be used when approaching a pedestrian who hasn’t noticed them – 34 of its self-driving cars run entirely on electricity, after all.

The firm’s May autonomous car report explains: “Our self-driving cars aim to be polite, considerate, and only honk when it makes driving safer for everyone.

“During testing, we taught our vehicles to distinguish between potentially tricky situations and false positives, i.e. the difference between a car facing the wrong way during a three-point turn, and one that’s about to drive down the wrong side of the road.”

It’s understood that engineers have been teaching the cars two types of beeps – either two short blasts as a friendly warning, or a longer one in more urgent situations.

The report added: “Our goal is to teach our cars to honk like a patient, seasoned driver. As we become more experienced honkers, we hope our cars will also be able to predict how other drivers respond to a beep in different situations”

Now that’ll be interesting to see. How does a driver act when experiencing road rage with a driverless car?

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

Google's self-driving cars can now beep at other road users

In a bid to prevent another crash involving one of its self-driving cars, Google has been working on fitting them with their own horns – and making sure they understand when to use them.

Unlike the majority of human drivers, the self-driving cars won’t use the horn when it gets impatient with another motorist, but to alert them of its presence.

They could even be used when approaching a pedestrian who hasn’t noticed them – 34 of its self-driving cars run entirely on electricity, after all.

The firm’s May autonomous car report explains: “Our self-driving cars aim to be polite, considerate, and only honk when it makes driving safer for everyone.

“During testing, we taught our vehicles to distinguish between potentially tricky situations and false positives, i.e. the difference between a car facing the wrong way during a three-point turn, and one that’s about to drive down the wrong side of the road.”

It’s understood that engineers have been teaching the cars two types of beeps – either two short blasts as a friendly warning, or a longer one in more urgent situations.

The report added: “Our goal is to teach our cars to honk like a patient, seasoned driver. As we become more experienced honkers, we hope our cars will also be able to predict how other drivers respond to a beep in different situations”

Now that’ll be interesting to see. How does a driver act when experiencing road rage with a driverless car?

Autonomous cars: Google patents ‘sticky’ car bonnet that clings onto pedestrians

Autonomous cars: Google patents ‘sticky’ car bonnet that clings onto pedestrians

Autonomous cars: Google patents ‘sticky’ car bonnet that clings onto pedestrians

Tech giant Google has filed a patent for a ‘sticky’ layer that can be applied to bonnets of autonomous cars in a bid to stop pedestrians bouncing off in a collision.

The logic is that, if a pedestrian is hit by a car, they’ll do more damage to themselves by bouncing off it and hitting other vehicles or the road.

The patent description states: “Ideally, the adhesive coating on the front portion of the vehicle may be activated on contact and will be able to adhere to the pedestrian nearly instantaneously.

“This instantaneous or nearly-instantaneous action may help to constrain the movement of the pedestrian, who may be carried on the front end of the vehicle until the driver of the vehicle (or the vehicle itself in the case of an autonomous vehicle) reacts to the incident and applies the brakes.

“As such, both the vehicle and pedestrian may come to a more gradual stop than if the pedestrian bounces off the vehicle.”

Although the sticky layer can be applied to any vehicle, Google states that it has been designed with autonomous cars in mind.

One of Google’s self-driving test cars made the headlines earlier in the year when it crashed into a bus.

Yesterday, the Queen announced her support for autonomous cars as part of her speech during the state opening of parliament.

Android Auto

Google Android Auto to work in ANY car – even old ones

Android AutoGoogle’s new Android Auto system is to let all car owners get the in-car Google experience thanks to a new smartphone app that will mimic built-in Android Auto.

This will allow all Android smartphone owners to use Google Maps and other functions safely on the move – and Google may even auto-enable the Android Auto app when it detects the smartphone is connected to in-car Bluetooth.

Ford ‘saviour’ Alan Mulally joins Google board

Such a convenience feature would boost safety by auto-configuring a smartphone for easy in-car use. UK law bans the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving; Google’s solution gets around this by enhancing hands-free operation of sat nav and other functions.

Android Auto may also offer enhanced voice control, using the ‘OK Google’ command, for full hands-free use.

Google built into your car?

Google’s plans go further though: with the new Android N platform, it wants to become a full car infotainment platform, integrating into a car’s systems to take over in-car digital displays and infotainment screens.

This would add Android Auto functionality to dial clusters and integrate Google with in-car features such as climate control, audio and navigation.

Google is showing a Maserati Ghibli fitted with a huge central touchscreen and a large digital instrument console, both running the full Android N platform.

Developed with tech partner Qualcomm, powerful Snapdragon chipsets allow Google to offer a ‘turn-key’ platform for turning mainstream cars into ‘connected cars’, without car makers going to the expense of developing propriety systems.

It could offer a way to add connected car tech into affordable cars, potentially accelerating the rollout of new infotainment functionality. Like Android for smartphones, it would be an open source platform that car makers could configure as they wished – and it’s likely that Google’s solution would facilitate Apple CarPlay being embedded in a similar way.

Whether car makers would be prepared to let these software companies, both of whom are developing their own car projects, be embedded so deeply into the functionality of vehicles is another matter…

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Google Car self-driving tech to be tested in Chrysler Pacifica MPV

Chrysler Pacifica HybridGoogle Self-Driving Car technology is to be tested in a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid MPV – the first time Google’s worked directly with a car maker to integrate its autonomous car tech into a production passenger vehicle.

The deal is a major coup for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) which will work with Google to fully integrate all the self-driving sensors and software into the 2017 Chrysler: testing will begin later in 2016.

It’s no one-off build either: FVA will build 100 self-driving Chryslers carrying Google self-driving tech, in a co-location facility in Michigan.

They’ll first be tested on a California racetrack before being rolled out onto public roads.

Previously, it was rumoured Ford would be collaborating with Google to co-develop self-driving cars: an announcement was expected at CES 2016 back in January, but it didn’t occur. Now, it seems FCA has picked up the baton.

“FCA has a nimble and experienced engineering team and the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan is well-suited for Google’s self-driving technology,” said John Krafcik, CEO of the Google Self-Driving Car Project.

“The opportunity to work closely with FCA engineers will accelerate our efforts to develop a fully self-driving car that will make our roads safer and bring everyday destinations within reach for those who cannot drive.”

“Working with Google provides an opportunity for FCA to partner with one of the world’s leading technology companies to accelerate the pace of innovation in the automotive industry,” said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA.

“The experience both companies gain will be fundamental to delivering automotive technology solutions that ultimately have far-reaching consumer benefits.”

Ford Fusion autonomous car

Will Ford help Google build a self-driving car?

Ford Fusion autonomous carFord and Google are to announce a joint venture that will see the U.S. car maker build Google’s next-generation autonomous self-driving cars, reports suggest.

Automotive News understands negotiations have been underway for some time and an announcement may come as soon as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

Ford CEO Mark Fields will hold a press conference at CES 2016 on 5 January – along with product chief Raj Nair, R&D vice president Ken Washington and connected vehicles and services chief Don Butler.


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Google’s leadership team already has close connections to Ford: former CEO Alan Mulally, who led the firm to safety during the economic crisis, joined the Google board just days after leaving Ford in 2014.

John Krafcik, a former Ford chief engineer who developed cars such as the top-selling Expedition, is currently CEO of the Google Self-Driving Car Project.

Google: not a car maker

Such a contract manufacturing deal with Ford would make sense for Google, which in recent months has moved away from the idea of becoming a full auto maker.

Instead of making a pure ‘Google Car’, the firm instead wants to use its advanced autonomous software on self-driving versions of cars developed by experienced car manufacturers.

This would require significantly less upfront investment and allow firms to concentrate on their own areas of expertise.

For this reason, any Google deal with Ford may be non-exclusive, allowing Google to partner with other car firms too.

Ford already testing autonomous cars

Earlier this month, Ford received a permit to test its fully autonomous Fusion Hybrid on public roads in California.

The automaker said this was part of a 10-year autonomous vehicle development program: more than 100 engineers, researchers and scientists are currently working at the Ford Research and Innovation Centre Palo Alto – making it one of the largest car maker R&D bases in the region.

8 in 10 employees come from the tech sector, says Ford.

“Our Palo Alto team has grown significantly this year, using research and innovation to explore and develop future mobility solutions,” said Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO.

“We’re attracting top talent from around the world to join our team in Silicon Valley, including employees from local technology companies and universities who want to make people’s lives better by changing the way the world moves.”

Google patents GPS system to help you avoid potholes

Google patents GPS system to help you avoid potholes

Google patents GPS system to help you avoid potholes

Google has patented a system that will let your sat nav warn you of bumpy roads using sensors fitted to other vehicles.

The GPS system will monitor vibrations inside cars to work out how bumpy a road is and pinpoint where potholes are.

This will then let you choose an alternative, smoother route avoiding the most potholed roads.

The data is also likely to be passed onto Google’s own self-driving cars to provide a more comfortable ride for their passengers.

The company already uses GPS data from phones running Google Maps to monitor traffic conditions and provide routes which avoid jams.

A similar system is already in the pipeline from Jaguar Land Rover. This uses sensors to profile the road’s surface and adjust the car’s dampers in preparation for hitting a pothole.

This information can also be shared between cars fitted with this system – and JLR is also working on using it to report deteriorating road surfaces with local councils.

Alan Mulally

Ford ‘saviour’ Alan Mulally joins Google board

Alan MulallyFormer Ford chief Alan Mulally has joined the Google Board of Directors in a move analysts are tipping as a drive to establish its Android in-car software within the automotive industry. Read more

Alan Mulally

Ford 'saviour' Alan Mulally joins Google board

Alan MulallyFormer Ford chief Alan Mulally has joined the Google Board of Directors in a move analysts are tipping as a drive to establish its Android in-car software within the automotive industry. Read more

Google self-driving car

Google to become a car manufacturer

Google self-driving car

Google’s two-seat self-driving city car to challenge automotive establishment?

Internet giant Google has announced it will bring its self-driving cars to the roads with a self-designed vehicle, rather than a converted version of a car from an existing car manufacturer. Read more