Featured image by Carlos Luna
Tech giant Google has today inched closer to a world-wide takeover, after being awarded a patent that enables a robot to automatically read and interpret roadwork signs.
The successful patent application marks the next step for the Californian company’s much-documented driverless car technology, giving unmanned vehicles the capability to react to road anomalies in the same way a human would.
As well as reading road signs, the new technology could enable the Google car to follow diversions, check for oncoming vehicles and identify and avoid unexpected obstacles.
The news follows Google’s purchase of social mapping company Waze in a speculated $1.3bn deal last June.
The acquisition of the Israeli startup allowed Google to enhance its mapping capabilities by incorporating real time traffic information, offering users up-to-the-minute feedback on accidents and traffic jams.
Ken McCall, Managing Director at Europcar UK, commented: “This is a really exciting time to be living in, with these sorts of developments making concepts that would have been laughed at a few years ago a real possibility in the near future. At Europcar we have always been first to embrace new technology – and I am personally excited by the prospect of having Google do the driving for me!”
Despite the patent only being awarded today after being filed in August last year, the company has not held back in its development of the futuristic Google car. In 2012, Techcrunch reported the successful test run of the company’s fleet of self-driving vehicles, which travelled 300,000 miles autonomously without incident.
Update: Since the patent was awarded, Google has made the move towards building its own self-driving cars, rather than simply adding the technology to vehicles built by other manufacturers.
In a video of the self-driving car, released today by the BBC, the “cartoon-like” Google vehicle can be seen sporting a “friendly face”, in the hope of encouraging consumer acceptance for the new technology.
Speaking at a conference in California, director of Google’s self-driving project, Chris Urmson, said: “We’re really excited about this vehicle – it’s something that will allow us to really push the capabilities of self-driving technology, and understand the limitations.
“[The driverless cars can] improve people’s lives by transforming mobility.”
The self-driving cars are expected to hit the roads within the next year.
How would you feel about sharing the roads with Google’s driverless cars?