On July 7, 2015, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted Google a patent relating to a self-driving car entitled “Engaging and disengaging for autonomous driving” (US Patent No 9,075,412).  The patent describes a system or a method that allows a car to decide when a human can or cannot take control of the car.

Google’s self-driving car has garnered much discussion.  As the patent describes, the car utilizes sensors and processors to collect and compute data in various steps in order to switch the car from a manual driving mode to an autonomous driving mode.  When a driver requests an autonomous driving mode, the processors run a series of assessments, including a scan of the car’s environment, systems, and the driver’s condition.  For example, the processors will assess whether the car is located in an area which is preapproved for autonomous driving or whether autonomous driving is safe in a given zone.  Once the assessments are processed and the relevant data points meet targets, the car may then switch to autonomous driving mode.

Similarly, the patent describes that under certain specific conditions the car’s computer system may discourage the driver from switching to manual driving from autonomous mode.  For example, the car may not switch between the two modes in the middle of a sharp turn.

Google’s patent sheds some light on its self-driving car, clarifying that the system is not entirely self-driving and incorporates technology governing when the car can and cannot switch between manual and autonomous driving modes.


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