For autonomous vehicles that rely on smooth roads and clear signals, a broken traffic light could conceivably pose a major problem.
To get around the problem of a missing green light, self-driving car company Waymo trained its vehicles’ artificial intelligence to detect and respond to the arm movements of a traffic cop as they wave traffic through an intersection, according to CNET — and you can watch it on YouTube.
Long Time Coming
Waymo first claimed that its autonomous vehicles could respond to hand signals from nearby cyclists back in 2016. That particular research treated cyclists, from the vehicle’s perspective, as obstacles to track and avoid.
A new video published by Waymo on Wednesday is the first that shows its vehicles responding to gesture commands — especially in the absence of the traffic lights on which it would normally rely — and obeying police orders. The video, which runs at three times normal speed, shows a picture-in-picture display of the car’s digital perspective and a video camera as it goes through an intersection.
The video shows the car approach the intersection where a virtual red wall blocks off the road, suggesting that the computer’s software responds to the absence of a green light at an intersection the same way as it might to an illuminated red light.
The cop in the video, represented by a small prism, teeters across the virtual representation of the intersection before finally waving the Waymo vehicle’s vehicle through the intersection and along its way.
READ MORE: Waymo self-driving cars can now respond to traffic cops’ hand signals [CNET]