Waymo’s self-driving prototype obeys a traffic cop’s hand signals

Before they can merge into the mainstream, self-driving cars need to learn how to safely and seamlessly navigate a variety of relatively difficult conditions that motorists encounter on a daily basis. Rain, snow, unmarked roads, and construction zones are among the bigger challenges they face. One of Waymo’s self-driving prototypes went above and beyond by successfully sailing through a situation that leaves even some human drivers confused: An intersection where the traffic lights are completely down.

Waymo published a dash cam-like video it sped up on its YouTube channel to show how its Chrysler Pacifica-based test mule handles itself. The car coasts as it approaches an intersection in Tempe, Arizona, and comes to a stop right where it should. It recognizes that there are no lights, and it also identifies a police officer directing traffic in the middle of the intersection which it labels as a yellow rectangle. This is where some motorists would panic; they’d go, stop, go, and eventually end up driving through the intersection at the same time as another car. Waymo’s Pacifica remains cool and collected.

The technology it’s equipped with is capable of identifying hand signals; it knows when the traffic cop tells it to stop, when it’s being told to move, and it acts accordingly. It also knows to obey the officer because it already detected that there is no light where there should be one.

Waymo began teaching its cars to recognize and interpret hand gestures in 2016. At the time, it explained in a Medium post that it wanted its cars to safely share the roads with cyclists. They learned to recognize some of the hand signals commonly used by cyclists when they’re turning, stopping, or changing lanes. It’s this same technology that, thanks in part to artificial intelligence, helped the Pacifica cruise through the intersection.

The company puts safety first, but it could find other applications for its gesture-recognition technology down the road. Currently, passengers approved to use its shuttle service need to hail a ride through a purpose-designed smartphone application. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine that, one day, the shuttle will recognize when it’s being hailed by a pedestrian standing on a sidewalk extending his or her arm.

Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.
Mobile

5G's arrival is transforming tech. Here's everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Cars

Nvidia’s new simulator brings virtual learning to autonomous vehicle developers

Nvidia introduced a simulator for testing autonomous vehicle technologies. Drive Constellation is a cloud-based platform technology vendors can use to validate systems efficiently, safely, and much faster than with vehicles on real roads.
Outdoors

Yamaha’s Wabash ebike takes on gravel, single track, and more

The Wabash gravel ebike from Yamaha gives riders a versatile and powerful option for riding trails, pavement, mud, sand, dirt, and more, with plenty of range and power for all-day adventures.
Cars

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.
Product Review

2019 Volkswagen Jetta offers German refinement and tech at an affordable price

With enough tech to make villains jealous, the Volkswagen Jetta punches above its class as a forward-thinking sedan. Spacious, comfortable, and efficient, the Jetta is a refined offering. German refinement comes with a serious attitude.
Cars

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.
Cars

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.
Cars

The 2020 Porsche Cayenne Coupe is an exercise in form-over-function design

Porsche expanded its lineup of SUVs with a swoopier evolution of the Cayenne named Cayenne Coupe. Don't let the name fool you: it still has four doors. It stands out with a fastback-like roofline that's lower than the Cayenne's.
Product Review

Chris is the virtual co-pilot phone-obsessives need in their car

Driving while using your phone is dangerous, and often illegal. Meet Chris, the digital assistant for your car that wants to help keep your hands off your phone, and your eyes on the road.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Cars

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.
Cars

Tesla ends scheduled servicing because electric cars need less maintenance

Tesla will longer offer scheduled maintenance plans, switching to an "as needed" model. This reflects the fact that electric cars need less regular maintenance than gasoline or diesel cars.