The tech company’s innovation is confused by a cyclist’s trackstand at an intersection, resulting in a stop sign impasse
BYMOLLY HURFORDAUGUST 31, 2015
In Austin, Texas, Google has been testing one of its newest innovations: the self-driving car. While the car is designed to work with—not against—cyclists, by reading and interpreting hand signals, what it seemingly hasn’t taken into account is a cyclist’s ability to hold a trackstand rather than put a foot down at a stop sign. Or at least, that’s what one cyclist reports experiencing.
The story, which the cyclist in question reported in a cycling forum, has been picked up across the globe for its implications concerning cyclists and smart cars, as well as its weirdness. A Google self-driving Lexus had been road testing in his neighborhood for a few weeks, and near the end of a recent ride, he stopped at a four-way stop sign just after the Google car did—so he paused in a trackstand, waiting for the car to make a turn.
“It apparently detected my presence (it’s covered in GoPros) and stayed stationary for several seconds,” he writes. “It finally began to proceed, but as it did, I rolled forward an inch while still standing. The car immediately stopped… I continued to stand, it continued to stay stopped. Then as it began to move again, I had to rock the bike to maintain balance. It stopped abruptly.”
If only the GoPro footage were available! “We repeated this little dance for about two full minutes and the car never made it past the middle of the intersection,” the rider continues. “The two guys inside were laughing and punching stuff into a laptop, I guess trying to modify some code to ‘teach’ the car something about how to deal with the situation.”
He concluded his story by adding that he felt safer with the self-driving car, despite the confusion, than he did with human-operated vehicles.
Of course, the forum lit up with comments; some serious, some funny. Forum user Alan E responded with a bit of both, saying, “Obviously, it was confused by your presence, but at least had been programmed with some common sense to stop and evaluate the situation. Either that, or it was simply admiring your track-stand skills.”
To be fair, the self-driving car may have been confused by the cyclist, but at least it was courteous.