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How Google’s self-driving car shares the road with cyclists

Cars will slow and allow more space when a cyclist moves to centre of lane

Google’s latest report on its self-driving car project details how the vehicles share the road with cyclists. The firm says its cars are programmed to recognise cyclists as ‘unique users of the road’ and drive conservatively around them.

There are, apparently, a number of avid cyclists on the project’s engineering team. They have refined the vehicles’ software through observing cyclists on the roads and on a private test track. We’ve previously reported that the cars can recognise common hand signals and they have been taught to recognise other common behaviour as well.

For example, when the car’s sensors detect a parked car with an open door near a cyclist, it will slow down or move further over to allow the cyclist more room.

Google also says that its cars won’t try and squeeze by when a cyclist moves to the centre of the lane, even if there’s enough space to get past. “Whether the road is too narrow or they’re making a turn, we respect this indication that cyclists want to claim their lane.”

The cars have also been programmed to recognise a variety of bikes – “from multi-coloured frames, big wheels, bikes with car seats, tandem bikes, conference bikes, and unicycles – enabling our car to better share the road no matter your choice of ride.”

There are currently 58 self-driving Google cars on public roads across four US states. 24 of the cars are Lexus SUVs while 34 are newer prototype vehicles. In June, the cars drove a total of 81,757 miles and Google reports that they were involved in two collisions.

One involved another driver moving into the autonomous vehicle’s lane from a right turn-only lane, resulting in a slight scrape to the front-right of the Google car and similar damage to the rear-left of the other vehicle. The other incident saw a motorist drive into the back of a Google car at around 3mph while it was stopped at a red light.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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