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Though driverless autos won’t be the breakthrough technology of this year or any other year in the current decade, they are one of the most hotly discussed ideas in this year’s tech world. Google has added a new wrinkle to the conversation with a new patent application that adds a manual control option to their driverless car model.
Google’s team refers to the new addition as “arm the chauffer.” The feature adds an arm on the steering column that activates the car’s automatic driver, and restores manual control as quickly as switching on or off the high beams. It also includes a more intuitive manual interference option that restores driver control if the pedals or steering wheel are touched suddenly and with force.
Under this patent, the road trip or commute of the future would be more similar to using an airliner’s autopilot than sitting back and catching a few more winks while in transit. The driver would work with the GPS and driving assistant rather than put everything in its hands.
Though driverless cars are operating with records far safer than those with humans behind the wheel, test models on the road haven’t driven with a perfect record. The new Google addition adds one more safety feature — human eyes paired with experience and judgment.
True to form, Google has said little officially about where the patent application fits in their overall strategy, or when we might see it applied to an actual product. In some ways, it could represent a backpedaling from earlier models which ran without any human intervention. If that is the change they’re aiming for, it would match much of the conversation, legislation and development of assisted driving cars in the recent past. Not quite comfortable with handing control entirely to robotic cars, we’re already seeing laws and guidelines in place that provide an interim step of cars helping humans drive. This is another step toward making that vision a reality.
Driving a car via Shutterstock