Self-Driving Cars Should Be Able To Pull Over For The Police

Autonomous vehicles are continually improving, but there’s still some way to go before they fully replace human drivers.

One of the most difficult things automakers and technology companies are dealing with is ensuring that self-driving vehicles can interact with their environment in the way humans do.

Getting a car to stop at a red light is relatively simple; making it “read” pedestrians’ intentions or police officers and pull over when necessary is a little trickier. That last part is, however, not impossible.

Waymo has worked extensively to ensure its autonomous prototypes can recognize police officers and respond to various requests. For example, in January, a Waymo test vehicle pulled up to a darkened stoplight in Tempe, Arizona shortly after power had gone out. A police officer was standing in the intersection directing traffic and the car waited for cross traffic and another vehicle before proceeding through the intersection after being waved on by the officer.

Waymo has also developed software that instructs its vehicles to pull over and stop when it detects flashing police lights behind it.

Also Read: Waymo Publishes Guidelines On How First Responders Should Deal With Self-Driving Cars

Ensuring that self-driving vehicles can interact with police officers, as well as workers at roadway construction sites, is extremely important in ensuring the cars are safe and reliable. And the tech is not up to scratch, as two police officers in California recently experienced, Bloomberg reports.

On a Friday morning back in November, a California Highway Patrol officer started following a Tesla Model S on Route 101 between San Francisco International Airport and Palo Alto. The officer was concerned because the vehicle was traveling at 70 mph (112 km/h) with its turn signal on and passing multiple exits. When the officer pulled alongside the vehicle, he noticed the driver slumped over the steering wheel.

While advanced, Tesla’s Autopilot system doesn’t yet have the ability to pull over when a police vehicle is behind it. Consequently, the officer called for backup. With one officer behind the Model S blocking traffic, the second drove in front of the electric sedan and gradually started to slow down until both vehicles came to a stop.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said he was looking into the incident late last year, and a few days ago claimed it would be safe for “somebody to essentially fall asleep and wake up at their destination” by the end of next year.

Will that timeline prove overly ambitious? We’ll have to wait and see but we can say with certainty that future self-driving vehicles won’t be running from police and triggering dangerous pursuits.

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  • kachuks

    I’ve said it before. Autonomous cars will one day lock you in and deliver you straight to the police station.

    • Perry F. Bruns

      Thank heavens there’s no way to misuse that.

  • flyfish

    Just think of the possibilities, no more left-lane bandits or 5-under the speed limit drivers, just send a signal to get their car to move to the right, maybe just for fun, pull completely out of traffic and shut off their car for 15 minutes. You could broadcast a pull-over or get-out-of-my-way signal and get any where you want quickly… 🙂

  • karmat

    The computer will calculate the probability of being able to shake em first.

  • TRB0T0Y

    Well this ought to make like easier for car jackers. Just pick up a police costume from the local costume shop, and you can simply gesture your next victim to pull over.

    • brn

      Giving the driver (rider?) the opportunity to override the action will solve that problem.

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