Just like most of us can bark commands at our smartphones, the future of driverless cars may now include vehicles telling pedestrians what to do. It’s beginning to look a lot like... Skynet. (That’s a joke. A Christmas-themed Terminator joke, because why not.)
The Washington Post reports that Google received a patent on Tuesday detailing how its self-driving cars will communicate with pedestrians, including judging likeliness for others to cross the street and communicating the car’s own intentions. Potential methods of communication include message-displaying screens and speakers on the outside of the car, and, get this—robotic arms and eyes to give pedestrians the feel of authentic human acknowledgement that the “driver” sees them.
The cars don’t exactly act like we humans do—after all, one recently got pulled over to driving itself too slowly—so the communication devices can help others who may not be completely used to the driving styles of such, ehem, cautious vehicles.
Screens will be placed on the exterior sides of the car, with additional screens potentially being placed on its roof, hood and rear. Messages on the screen could include stop signs, traffic signs or text to inform pedestrians of when it is safe to cross the street, and the car will react accordingly to what it displays (we hope, or else that could turn out badly).
The more humanistic options that the patent could present include speakers to call out alerts to others around the vehicle, and the idea of robotic arms and eyes. The robot body parts (Terminator movie scenes are playing on repeat in my head), would gesture—hopefully, those gestures are all nice ones—at pedestrians to acknowledge that the car is aware that they are there.
Concept images of the newly announced patent sadly don’t include ones of the robotic arms and eyes, but here is a rough idea of what we may see in the future:
Photo credit: AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File. Concept images via U.S. Patent & Trademark Office
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