Google’s self-driving cars are equipped with lasers, cameras, and radar devices to identify objects in every direction up to 200 yards away, relying on software to predict the object’s next move. Yes, the robocars have been rear-ended several times, but Google remains adamant it has yet to be the cause of an accident.
Google’s first concern probably wasn’t the well-being of cyclists, but nonetheless its self-driving cars will keep cyclists safe too. We recently shared the story of Gregg Tatum, an avid rider from Austin, Texas, who confused a Google self-driving cars for nearly two minutes while performing a track-stand at a four-way stop. The two parties eventually figured things out and went on their merry ways, but Tatum said he “actually felt safer dealing with a robotically-operated vehicle than one with a human driver.”
He’s not alone with that sentiment. In fact, the fine folks at Icebike.org put together an in-depth piece about Google’s self-driving cars, including the follow eight reasons why cyclists should love them:
1. Speed Limit
Google’s self-driving cars are programmed to stick to the speed limits in the areas they are being tested. For example, the current cap for the speed limit of a driverless car from the company is 25 MPH. With all cars driving at this speed, some electric bikes would actually be able to beat them silly in a race!
A lot of the accidents that occur between cyclists and vehicles are due to speeding. Nobody seems to understand that speed kills. In addition, speed kills cyclists almost instantaneously because of our lack of external protection. Headgear and pads are not going to be much use when hit sideways by a car barreling through an intersection.
2. Safe Driving Distance
When a Google self-driving car is behind you, the radar sensors on the front bumper are going to identify you almost immediately. As a moving object in front of the car, the processor will immediately force the car to maintain a safe distance behind you.
Gone will be the days when there were cars about 2 inches away from your rear tire, tooting their horns endlessly because they are too impatient to wait for a light to change. The Google self-driving car should be the kind that will wait patiently as you ride along, without any pressure from behind at all. What a peaceful ride that should prove to be.
3. Gesture Sensing
Google’s software for its self-driving cars has been specially adapted to give priority to cyclists. FINALLY, someone pays us more attention than it does to other cars! In fact, upon detecting a cyclist on the road, the car will then watch you for hand signals.
This means that if you are going to make a turn, and you stick your hand out as the law demands, the car will actually slow down so that you can take that turn in peace. This is one thing that will be tremendously useful, in a world where too many people are texting while driving.
The technology behind this is pretty marvelous. Using LIDAR, radar and camera systems, the car will measure the height from the top of your head to the road. This height is compared with the average height of cyclists in the area, and you are then identified as one.
Using the cameras, the self-driving car then identifies parts of your body in such a way that it can tell where your arms and legs are in relation to the road. It looks at everything, including the distance between your hand and your head, and even the angle at which your elbow is bent while riding!