When some people drive, laying on the horn is second nature. They honk for every possible perceived infraction even if there is no need. Those people are jerks and we all know it. There are those occasions though when the horn can keep you from being in an accident making it an important feature for a car. In the autonomous vehicle future, the self-driving cars will be on the road with normal people much more focused on eating or Facebook than driving and honking the horn could prevent a crash.
As such, Google is working on teaching its autonomous cars when it is appropriate to use the horn. Appropriate usage is for things like when someone starts to merge into your lane inappropriately or when someone is backing out in front of you. The autonomous car has two types of honks, one is two short beeps for a heads up and the other is a longer blast meant to identify truly stupid driving mistakes by people around the autonomous car.
When the researchers began teaching the autonomous car to honk its horn, it started with the horn sound only going off inside the car. Google’s self-driving cars live by the Sponge Bob mantra, don’t be a jerk. Once the researchers were sure the autonomous car wouldn’t honk in inappropriate circumstances, the honks were made audible outside the car like a normal horn.
Google is also talking a bit about engine noise, which the electric autonomous cars lack. To help the visually impaired know the EVs are around, Google added a “hum” sound inspired by other vehicles, consumer electronics, and art. Oddly, Google even experimented with orca noises. I’d totally give the little electric autonomous cars Lamborghini engine sound effects. Google autonomous cars had a single accident in May where one vehicle hit a median. The human driver was blamed.