Skip to main content

How a track stand can confuse Google’s self-driving car

Google self-driving car
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Trying to get a self-driving car ready for any possible real-life scenario is no easy task, and Google’s efforts continue to suffer the occasional hiccup. The Washington Post reports how a cyclist doing a track stand on his bike confused an autonomous automobile into a stop-start pattern, and the cyclist himself recounted the experience on an online forum.

For the uninitiated, a “track stand” is where a cyclist balances on his or her pedals at a stop, moving the bike every so slightly to keep balanced. It’s this kind of small but perceptible movement that confused Google’s self-driving car, although no one was in any danger. The incident happened in Austin, Texas, where the vehicles have just started a trial run.

As the cyclist shifted, the Google car braked, even though the rider wasn’t going anywhere. “We repeated this little dance for about two full minutes and the car never made it past the middle of the intersection,” reports the cyclist. “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.”

Despite the experience, the rider says he “felt safer” dealing with a self-driving car rather than a human-operated one — of course, robotic drivers don’t try and intimidate cyclists, or forget where they are, or try and cut into a space where there isn’t enough room. This is exactly the kind of feedback and experimentation Google needs as it looks to expand its self-driving project beyond Mountain View.

The company’s efforts seem to be ramping up as the competition increases from all sides. Google is now reporting every accident its cars are involved in to improve transparency, while expanding the testing routes to new parts of the U.S., as we’ve already mentioned. Meanwhile, Uber, Apple, and Tesla are waiting in the wings.

David Nield
Dave is a freelance journalist from Manchester in the north-west of England. He's been writing about technology since the…
Apple’s rumored car could cost the same as a Tesla Model S
Apple Car rendering from Vanarama.

Rumors have been swirling around for years regarding Apple’s plans for an electric, self-driving car.

The latest report, which arrived on Tuesday via a usually reliable source, suggests Apple has scaled back its plan for an autonomous car, with some elements yet to be agreed upon.

Read more
Ford and VW close down Argo AI autonomous car unit
An Argo AI autonomous car on the road.

Autonomous-car specialist Argo AI is closing down after Ford and Volkswagen, Argo's main backers, ended support for the Pittsburgh-based company.

First reported by TechCrunch and later confirmed by the two auto giants, some of the 2,000 workers at Argo will transfer to Ford and Volkswagen, while others without an offer will receive a severance package. Argo’s technology is also set to end up in the possession of the two companies, though at this stage it’s not clear how it might be shared.

Read more
Tesla hopes full self-driving beta will be out globally by the end of 2022
Beta of Tesla's FSD in a car.

At the Tesla AI Day 2022 event, the electric car maker revealed some key statistics about the Full Self Driving (FSD) tech that is currently still in the beta testing phase. The company divulged that the number of FSD beta testers has gone up from 2,000 last year to roughly 1,60,000 users in 2022, despite a few regulatory hiccups and incidents that raised questions about its safety.

Tesla still hasn’t provided a timeline for when the FSD package will formally exit the beta phase, but it doesn’t seem too far off. In a TED interview this year, Musk claimed that the FSD system, which now costs $15,000, will most likely be out by the end of 2022 for all customers. There are also plans for a global rollout by the end of this year, pending regulatory approval, of course.

Read more