Google wins patent for driverless car technology

Dec 19, 2011 by Nancy Owano report

(PhysOrg.com) -- News surfaced this week that Google has won a patent for driverless car technology. Google filed the patent in May this year. The application is titled “Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode.” The patent presents a method listing numerous “embodiments” suggested, for a vehicle that switches from being driven by a human to moving, stopping, and parking autonomously.

The patent describes how the car can know where it is located and which direction to drive.

The car would arrive at a specific location and once reaching a “landing strip” could show acceptable parking places for the vehicle.

Additionally the strip may tell the vehicle that it is parked in a region where it can transition into autonomous mode.

The car could get helpful information from Internet-driven data about other spaces available, or which direction to move for the next part of the trip.

The patent presents an example of the vehicle providing a tour of Millennium Park in Chicago The machine could be programmed to stop at a sculpture for five minutes, move to a fountain for five minutes and then to the ice rink for a pre-set amount of time, before returning to its starting point.

“Disclosed are methods and devices for transitioning a mixed-mode from a human driven mode to an autonomously driven mode” says the patent. “Transitioning may include stopping a vehicle on a predefined landing strip and detecting a reference indicator. Based on the reference indicator, the vehicle may be able to know its exact position. Additionally, the vehicle may use the reference indictor to obtain an autonomous vehicle instruction via a URL. After the vehicle knows its precise location and has an autonomous vehicle instruction, it can operate in . “

For watchers, the patent victory is an easy reminder of all the publicity that the company has enjoyed over its ambitious dream project of driverless cars. Google has used a fleet of cars clocking 190,000 miles on highways, in city traffic and on roads in demonstrating how successful driverless cars can be.

Earlier this year, Google also set up a demo system on its campus to show off driverless golf carts that communicate with sensors.

Google’s project leaders are convinced that smarter vehicles equipped with specially designed sensors, artificial intelligence, video cameras, and other sophisticated tools could help to make transportation safer.

Of the many reports about the patent victory, BBC’s report has raised the question of how the patent might possibly be used. “The will allow Google to restrict other companies from using a similar method to switch their cars between human-controlled and automatic modes. Alternatively, it could charge them a fee for a licence.”

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User comments : 8

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_nigmatic10
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
I'm sure apple patent filing dept hates them for it too. On a side note, i can imagine a fleet of driverless cars being hacked to crash. Oh the joy.
JRi
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
Soon we may be seeing Google cars with cameras on top taking photos and driving alone on streets...
finitesolutions
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
This reminds me of the need to stop the convertible car on the highway in order to raise/lower the top.
Now a days you can do it while going of course at low speed.
Happy inventing.
Autonomous cars will be regulated by the government because accidents by autonomous vehicles need special handling when they WILL happen.
jdbertron
2.1 / 5 (7) Dec 19, 2011
How can this be a valid patent. This stuff has been invented years ago in movies before Google even existed.
There's nothing original about it.
Actually implementing it one way, is not a legitimate 'invention' of the autonomous car, because others may have different approaches that work too and are just as legitimate as Google's. Calling other approaches an infringement to Google's patent would stifle competition and progress.
What a shame our patent office really is.
randith
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
The places we drive reveal a lot about our interests and what we spend money on. This information will enable Google to make better targeted ads.
plasticpower
not rated yet Dec 19, 2011
Nothing to do with this patent, but I was wondering how multiple driverless cars will operate alongside with each other if they're all using radar/lidar at the same time trying to map their surroundings. I would think this isn't a problem for a few of these cars, but if every car is equipped with that sensor it would introduce an incredible amount of "noise". I guess if bats and dolphins can do it though..

@randith, they can already do it with their Android phones, but I believe the recent "locationgate" scandal showed that, at least for now, this is still illegal..
Callippo
1 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2011
How can this be a valid patent. This stuff has been invented years ago in movies before Google even existed.
There's nothing original about it. What a shame our patent office really is.
No wonder, if it makes money with acceptation of patent applications. It's just logical consequence of free market approach to the patent law. These two principles should be separated each other, because the patent law is socialistic principle and it essentially restricts free market. It's purpose is to protect investments into research and prohibit their free exploitation instead.
finitesolutions
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2011
This is just common sense.
If I embed a voice solution into the car ( Siri or the new Majel from Goggle or ...) I should be able to voice control the behavior and end destination of the vehicle.
How will I infringe any patent while talking to my car?!!?!?!?!?! We can even have our own language.