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December 13, 2016

Scenes from the street

  • technology

June 2015

Each month we’ll give examples of everyday situations we encounter


Earlier this year, project director Chris Urmson spoke at the TED Conference; the video, “How a driverless car sees the road,” is now online. If you’ve ever wondered why we decided to build a fully self-driving vehicle that can take anyone from point A to point B at the push of a button…the answers are in this talk.

Tune in from 7:43 of the TED talk. You’ll see how we handle both the expected and the rare, from people changing their minds, blowing through red lights, and making up their own rules of the road…to some close encounters of the bird kind.

The bottom line is that we need to be ready and able to deal with all of it — even if we’ve never seen that exact situation before. We use the same basic principles to guide us in all situations. If we’re not sure what something is or how it will behave, we’ll slow down to give ourselves time to gather more information about the situation. If it’s a moving object, we’ll categorize it as a vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian so we can make reasonable predictions about its behavior — and be prepared for odd behavior. When in doubt, our cars will stop. Over time, we’re getting better at modeling and responding smoothly to the unexpected, from cyclists riding the wrong way in a bike lane, to the new fad of lane-splitting electric skateboards.