Tag Archives: driverless cars

Wired: Why Parking Lots are Tricky for Autonomous Vehicles

An autonomous car in a parking lotMuch was written when Teslas under a new “Smart Summon” feature started crashing in parking lots–which was exactly where the feature was designed to work. This week, Wired took a shot at breaking down what that means for autonomous vehicles (AVs) in general, and why parking lots and garages will prove especially tricky for driverless cars. Among their findings:

  • As designed now, AVs will likely lose their GPS signals in underground garages, leaving them to find their way without a main source of direction. While they can use cameras to navigate, experts fear tight spaces like garages might leave those systems not as helpful as they are on roads.
  • Parking lots aren’t like highways, where other cars are all traveling in the same direction and around the same speed. Parking means bikes, people, and all sorts of vehicular movements and maneuvers.
  • Parking lots, in particular, are less defined than roads–Teslas seem to be having a hard time figuring out what’s pavement and what’s grass, for example.
  • Finally, parking lots are a uniquely human experience, with lots of nuance and rule-bending.

“In fact, parking lots are one of the most human places you could put a car that doesn’t need a human to drive,” the article says. “Their rules are not always consistent, and drivers, moreover, don’t always follow them. They’re full of little people-to-people interactions: a wave to let the dad behind the stroller know that that you’re going to stop and let him cross; a nod to tell the other driver to inform him that you’re waiting for this woman fiddling with her keys to finally pull out of her spot.”

Read the whole story here.


Sensors and Tech for Autonomous Cars Includes New Lane Tape

We’ve all heard about the LIDAR and sensor and road-following technology in development so cars can learn to drive themselves. As it turns out, that might include new lane-marking tape, and a Canadian company is already on top of it.

3M Canada teamed up with the company that manages Highway 407 in Ontario to start testing new lane tape that’s easier for lane-departure systems–and someday, autonomous vehicles–to read and follow. One of the features of the new tape is a black line on either side of its white body, which will be easier for systems to see on all kinds of pavement. The partners also say the tape performed well through Canada’s winter. They say it seems like a great addition to the roads, especially for the period when human drivers and driverless cars will both need to read the roads.

Read the whole story here.

Meet the Army of People Behind Waymo’s Robot Cars

Waymo, formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project, is getting ready to launch a robotic taxi service outside Phoenix, Ariz., stocked entirely with its autonomous vehicles. A story from Citylab says while the cars may drive themselves, there will be lots of humans behind the scenes, ready to jump in to help.

Teams in four different areas–technicians, dispatchers, fleet response, and rider support–in nearby Chandler, Ariz., will stand ready to intervene if and when the cars need it. Citylab explains, “What humans lack in regularity, precision, and relentlessness, we (typically) make up for with manual dexterity, adaptability, and excellent visual sensors. Anywhere Waymo can’t quite make things work automatically, in come the people. Humans are the masking tape, the glue, the putty, the clamp. Humans are the hack.”

Read the whole story here.