A Cyclist’s Encounter with an Indecisive Google Self-Driving Car

A bicyclist recently had a two-minute standoff with a Google self-driving car at a four-way stop in Austin, Texas. So what happened? We explain.

Photo Caption: A Google self-driving car circles the Google campus, sharing the road with bicyclists.

“It sounds like here the car mistakenly thought it had an aggressive other vehicle that it should wait for when all the vehicle was doing was wobbling in a track stand. I would hazard a guess the team logged it and the coders will improve their ability to detect, understand and plan for a bike in a track stand in doing this dance.

“Humans do this ‘you go—no, you go—no, you go’ dance all the time. Some humans abuse it and just go even if they were clearly 2nd, because almost all other humans will yield then—it’s easier to yield than to get in a fight over who was first.

Robotics Trends reached out to Google for comment. Here’s what a spokesperson had to say:

“Fun to see this anecdote!  Glad to hear the cyclist felt comfortable but we’re not able to look into this particular situation; we drive many hours and miles every day.

“It’s a good example of the kind of feedback we want to get from the community in this phase of our project, as we continue to refine the software and expand our testing to communities outside of Mountain View, where people aren’t as accustomed to seeing us around.  We really want to learn how people perceive and interact with our vehicles.

Our software recognizes cyclists as a special category of object on the road—i.e., different from other vehicles or pedestrians and following a distinct set of rules and tendencies on the road.  (Not that they don’t break them sometimes…we’re prepared for that too!)  We can nudge around them to give them a little extra room as we pass.  We can also recognize a flailing arm that might indicate a possible turn.”

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
Contact Steve Crowe: scrowe@ehpub.com  ·  View More by Steve Crowe.


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