Google’s self-driving cars are now self-honking as well – Mashable

Posted: Friday, June 03, 2016

Imagine this situation. You’re stuck in traffic, and some nervous douchebag behind you keeps on honking, even though you have nowhere to go. You turn around, and to your horror realize the car behind you has no driver. The car is autonomously being annoying!

Hopefully, this scenario won’t happen anytime soon. But the groundwork for it is already here, as Google has started teaching its self-driving cars how to honk. 

The news comes from Google’s May Self-Driving Car Project Monthly Report, first spotted by Business Insider. 

In the report, Google explains how self-honking cars will, in theory at least, be far more polite and considerate than human drivers. “Our self-driving software is designed to recognize when honking may help alert other drivers to our presence — for example, when a driver begins swerving into our lane or backing out of a blind driveway,” the report says. 

Someone’s backing out of a driveway into the main street — time to honk!

Image: Google

To make sure the cars are only honking when absolutely necessary, Google is teaching the cars’ software to distinguish between actual honk-demanding situations and false positives. Every time the car toots inappropriately, Google’s test drivers note that down so that the error can be eradicated in the next iteration of the car’s software. 

Google went so far as to teach the car different types of honks to be used depending on the scenario: two short toots if a car ahead is slowly reversing back into the Google car, and one, longer honk for more urgent situations. 

In the report, Google also details how it designed the sound its self-driving cars make (compared to gasoline-powered cars, electric cars are very quiet, so manufacturers add a sonic imprint that lets pedestrians and cyclists know the car is nearby). Google says it tried to make the sound “friendly and a little futuristic.” To find the perfect sound, the company experimented with many different sounds, including those produced by an orca.

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