While we eagerly for self-driving vehicles to be part of our routine lives, the companies producing them are working hard to make that happen.
And as if the idea of a car driving itself to places isn’t futuristic enough, every day more and more innovations are helping the idea to come to life and onto our roads.
From safety features to recreational uses, let’s see what these autonomous vehicle companies plan on offering with their self-driving rides.
When a large number of passengers wait for their rides in the same area, there is always scope for confusion with people taking someone else’s ride in a rush.
To avoid these misunderstandings Waymo has planned ahead. The company has applied for a patent that discusses ways to eradicate this problem.
As the first step, the company will confirm if the passenger is one who called for a ride or someone else by comparing the saved destination to the entered destination.
If the car has the correct passenger, it will start the ride to reach the destination. However, if the passenger is different, the car system will pull their information and enter the new destination that the new passenger wants to reach.
So, rather than asking the passenger to change the ride, the car will decide to continue with the new passenger.
This system will allow passengers in a rush to save time and save them from the hassle of switching cabs.
Possibly one of the biggest apprehensions people have regarding autonomous cars is not having control over the car and getting into an accident.
In a recent patent filed by Wymo, the company describes a new safety feature for driverless vehicles to keep its passengers safe and keep this apprehension at bay.
The invention is about a “safety-net”, both literal and figurative, where the net will be positioned on the hood of the car.
It will either be held up by two bars like in the images above and below.
Or it can be attached to the hood of the car as shown below.
In the event of an impact, these nets will pop out of the hood of your car to protect you.
The purpose of the net is to stop stray shrapnels from breaking the windshield and entering the car. In case the car inevitably collides with a pedestrian, the net will also save the pedestrian from being hurt by the bumper of the car.
The patent also mentions a shock-absorbing mechanism, so most of the impact from the collision will be absorbed by the device attached and you’ll come out of the collision with minimum damage to your car
To function well on the road, a self-driving vehicle has to collect a lot of information about its surroundings. Wipro has come up with a sensor that will understand the signs of Traffic Police as part of taking in and processing the surroundings.
Wipro describes a system in their recently filed patent about sensors that will be able to detect hand gestures by traffic police.
While a self-driving usually relies on traffic signals to maneuver its way around, this sensor will come in handy when occasionally the stop signals don’t work.
According to the patent, this system is called the Intersection Management System. Apart from sensors that help the vehicle navigate, the system will bring additional sensors to the table that, with the help of present sensors, will detect whether Traffic police or auxiliary objects (such as traffic cones, stop signs, etc.) are present.
This system could solve a major problem not only when there’s a non-functional traffic light, but also in the case of a traffic jam and when traffic police come to intervene.
Wipro has also created a driverless car simulator or self-driving car in a box and it can be used to test the navigation algorithms of autonomous vehicles.
The system plays the role of a testing ground to check the autonomous vehicles before they go onto the roads. It simulates multiple weather conditions and can take the vehicle in its limits of operations by navigating it through challenging real-life scenarios.
This makes the simulator highly scalable and it can be used to replicate specific world environments.
Speaking of hand gestures, apart from hand gestures by traffic police, General Motors (GM) wants its autonomous vehicles to recognize ride hailers’ hand gestures too.
In a recently filed patent, GM discusses the need for this system and how it will function.
The company believes that while people can call a ride through the apps on their phones, in the case of an emergency or on the chance that the user doesn’t have a phone on them, this additional feature will be useful.
Apart from that, upon calling a cab, it can take up to 10-15 minutes to arrive. Catching a cab fast is another scenario where hang gesture recognition will be “handy”.
Gm’s autonomous vehicles will have lidar, radar, and cameras to recognize surrounding objects such as vehicles, humans, animals. Using these, the sensors will find human presence too. Further, they will analyze if a human is raising a hand, the typical gesture used to hail a vehicle.
Once such a gesture is identified, the car will stop to let a person in for a ride.
Apart from the traditional hand gesture, it plans to include various other gestures to catch a ride too.
Ford with a new feature in their autonomous driving vehicle brings package safety for both the package receiver and sender i.e. logistics companies.
Ford discusses this new safety feature in its recently applied patent.
It describes a system wherein a scanning system is installed in the side mirrors of the vehicle. This will include an image that will illuminate an area and display a unique code.
The user will be asked to scan this code to access their package or delivery item. Once the code matches, the vehicle will open its storage compartment, and the user can collect their delivery.
If by any chance, the code doesn’t match then the system will abort the delivery and simply will move to the next destination.
If by any chance, the code doesn’t match then the system will abort the delivery and move to the next destination.
This one feature will bring peace of mind to users and limit delivery thefts and wrong drop-offs.
Apart from making driverless delivery convenient, Ford has come up with a seat selection system for self-driving taxies which you can find details of here.
In a fully autonomous stage 5 vehicle, a designated seat for a driver will be obsolete. People very well may sit facing each other OR all sitting together facing a big screen.
Honda talks about this very feature in an autonomous vehicle in its recently applied patent.
According to it, since autonomous vehicles will be self-driving, all the seats in a car can be arranged in such a way-
There is a track lining the edges of the cabin within the vehicle. The chairs or seats in the vehicle will be mounted on track linings situated on the edges of the cabin within the vehicle. This will allow for the chairs to be movable. Hence they can be placed into almost any arrangement.
Along with the seats, the vehicle will come with a “Multipurpose Display” which can be arranged in any way that is optimum for viewing.
This display can be placed horizontally or vertically. So within the vehicle, the seat and display arrangement may look like this-
Or this –
The display could be used to communicate with your vehicle, your destination, the route that you wish to pick, and the stops that will come in the way if any and to change the arrangement, location, and position of the seats.
And last but not the least, the display screen can play any videos of the passenger’s liking so that they can kick back and truly enjoy their ride.
is one of the top 10 patent holders of the US Automotive Industry. If you wish to know others who made it into the list, find them here.
One of the difficult aspects of owning a car is the constant maintenance required by it. Be it an oil change, or the check engine light being on, going to a service center is a hassle and one has to make a whole day out of it.
Keeping this in mind Continental Automotive Systems, Inc. applied for a patent that talks about autonomous vehicles that provide a solution for this problem.
First, the system will inform you when there’s a malfunction in the car with a brief description.
The error message that will be circulated within the systems will have the following information-
The source of the error i.e. the exact part that
The time at which this error occurred
A detailed description of the fault
This diagram explains how various systems will communicate with each other when an error will occur within the car.
When the system will analyze the error within the vehicle, it will look for the nearest service center and schedule an appointment.
You will get a notification on your mobile regarding the error and if you would like to book a service appointment and when it will be suitable for you.
This will save users of the vehicle time and hassle of going to a service center and give them a well-maintained car.
Many companies are working tirelessly to make an already revolutionary idea more outstanding with its user-friendly features which will make the process of traveling and logistical use more seamless.
Besides, there are some top autonomous vehicle startups that are doing equally innovative research to make autonomous vehicles a reality.
Hopefully, with the help of these innovations, we’ll get to use these cars sooner than we expect.