Pedestrian Communciations: Google Patents

In perusing the internet today, I came across this article in the WaPost.  According to Matt McFarland, Google has recently received a patent on car-pedestrian communications.  Many have discussed a car’s need to recognize pedestrian intent, and reactions to that (perceived) intent.  This is one of the few times that I’ve heard of development of new technology to “notify the pedestrians of its [the car’s] intent.”

What I found interesting wasn’t the notification, it was “how” the notification was to be done.  From the article,

The patent describes using electronic screens mounted on the side of the vehicle — including potentially the roof, hood and rear of vehicle — to tell a pedestrians if it was safe to cross. The displays might show a stop sign, a traffic sign, or just text.

I think this starts to show how good engineers are really throwing the box out, and looking for what people will need.  Speakers and lights may be useful, but they are not universal.  A flashing light may mean “get out of the way” or “I yield right of way.”  An instruction “Stop” in a foreign language may sound a lot like “I’m stopping,” and Dr. Doppler isn’t helping anyone.

I’ wonder what will happen if people start to take and run with this. Let’s assume for a minute that all cars are so equipped. What signs should be required?   When should they be shown?  What displays are permitted when no signal is offered?


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