Google are creating sensors which will enable their controversial driverless cars to automatically detect emergency service vehicles in their area. The sensors will also work out whether they are coming towards them or not, and if they are, direct the car to pull over to the side of the road to either let the vehicle pass, or to be stopped and questioned.
The internet giant have filed for a US patent for the system, which will see the sensors recognise the red or blue lights, and identify via their specific flashing sequence whether the vehicle approaching is Police, Ambulance, or Fire Brigade.
The sensor also detects whether the situation requires a response – for example, if the car is behind them and trying to get past – or whether there is no response needed, and the car is on the other side of the road, or ahead of them.
If it decides a response is necessary, the self-driving car will manoeuvre itself to ‘yield’ to the vehicle, usually by pulling over.
According to UK law, drivers must pull over and park their vehicle at the next safe opportunity if signalled to do so by a police car, and drivers can be stopped for any reason.
If emergency services vehicles are engaged in high-speed operations, Rule 219 of the Highway Code states that drivers must try not to obstruct them, and “take appropriate action to let [the vehicle] pass, but must still “comply with all traffic signs”, and not break the law (by driving through red traffic lights, or pulling into bus lanes, for example.)
The aim of Google’s driverless cars is to make traffic accidents a thing of the past, free up countless hours of commuting time to be used working or in leisure, rather than in driving, and cut congestion. The prototype autonomous vehicles have now travelled more than 1 million miles on public roads in the US since 2012, and is hoping to launch driverless car testing into the UK too.
Google aims to bring the futuristic tech to the public in 2020, in something of a slow race with Daimler, Ford, Tesla, Uber, and Apple, who have all also announced testing of driverless cars.