San Diego – On December 13th, Google cruised away with a driverless car patent. U.S. Patent 8,078,349 covers devices and methods for allowing a vehicle to transfer from a conventional driving mode into an autonomous driving mode.
Most importantly, the car can potentially self-park on a preset parking strip. Google wants to equip the vehicle with an optical or radio sensor to detect a parking strip and a computer data processing system. The parking strip, located on the ground, will also be embedded with a sensor. The sensor could resemble a one-dimensional radio tag or bar code. Alternatively, it could resemble a two-dimensional bar code consisting of a white background with a black pattern.
To switch the vehicle to autonomous mode, a driver will park on the strip. The car’s sensors will detect the strip sensor, triggering an indicator that provides data such as a URL, coordinates or a physical address that the car can read. It may also allow a driver to program a preset route that it can follow. The route can be stored in the car’s memory database.
Google test cars have already clocked in 200,000 autonomous miles. This feature may prove useful in heavy traffic. It may also allow drivers to navigate tight tolerances, such as parking in a warehouse or a dealership lot.
The current model is currently too expensive for a general market, however Google expects developments in sensor technology to progress quickly. Apparently Nevada agrees. It has already amended state laws to allow autonomous cars on its roads.