There have already been a number of examples of Google‘s self-driving cars being overly cautious in the name of safety, such as confrontations with a cyclist at an intersection, or just driving so slowly that they get pulled over. However, there are times when a vehicle needs to be a bit aggressive in order for other drivers to accommodate and make room. A four-way stop could be one example. Fortunately, Google has received a patent that would allow the vehicles to communicate their intentions to others.
Google’s ideas mostly include things like signs and lights on the car that would tell nearby pedestrians and other drivers what the autonomous vehicle is about to do, maintaining safety without the need to be overly aggressive.
These include a sign on the front bumper that lets people at a crosswalk know when it’s okay to walk in front of the car. Another is a flashing stop sign on the side doors that tells drivers and pedestrians that the car is about to move forward.
And since there’s no way for pedestrians or other drivers to rely on eye contact or a hand gesture, Google has the idea of a robotic hand inside the vehicle that could give signals other people are used to seeing to know it’s safe to pass (the middle finger seems unlikely, however).
Also likely are exterior speakers that could play alerts, such as “safe to cross” or “coming through.” These would also be beneficial for pedestrians with poor sight.