With the continuous development of autonomous driving systems, companies are looking to ensure that their systems are as advanced and adaptive to situations as possible. Recently, Google filed patents on how to make autonomous vehicles detect other cars’ turn signals and react accordingly.

The tech company had earlier filed for the patent in July 2013, but the details on it were only published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in early April 2016. Other patents registered under the company include bus identification and pothole recognition systems.

For this patent, referred to as a “vision-based indicator signal detection using spatiotemporal filtering”, a forward-facing camera is used to scan the traffic ahead. The camera would capture the image with a short exposure to detect objects have a brightness above a certain threshold (like a signal light for instance).

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From there, the system would look for changes in colour at the rear of the surrounding cars. Next, it will calculate the light oscillation intensity, allowing it to determine if the turn signal or hazard lights are activated. The autonomous car would then be programmed to react to this information accordingly.

As proven by Tesla’s Autopilot system, autonomous systems need to do more than just making driving more convenient, they need to enhance vehicle safety as well. Ensuring that autonomous cars obtain as much information on its environment as possible, allows it to perform better. However, this continues to be a work in progress.