Google has released its August self-driving car monthly report, and revealed that one of its autonomous vehicles had a close encounter involving an elderly woman and a feathered fiend.
The company’s distinctive-looking vehicles have been racking up the miles on the roads of Austin, Texas and Mountain View, California, and in an FAQ regarding novel situations, told of how a car had to avoid a granny in an electric wheelchair who was chasing a duck in the middle of the road.
Google revealed that rather than teach the car how to deal with specific incidents such as this, they endow it with the capability to detect an unfamiliar object as well as another road user. This, the company says, is vital when reacting to hazards like a cyclist coming out from between parked cars, or an object falling off the back of a truck. Rather than swerve or perform a similar manoeuvre, the car would slow down and come to a stop.
The navigation software is reportedly sophisticated. For example, Austin is noted for having a large population of deer, which are noted for running out into traffic. Google’s Lexus RX450h SUV self-driving cars are not only able to detect them, but also differentiate them from stationary objects such as posts or mailboxes, so they are able to anticipate any action by the kamikaze ruminants should one be hanging out at the side of the road, waiting to make its move.
However, ducks and wheelchair-bound grannies are a different matter, and we can safely assume that both parties were unharmed in the incident.