Ask any self-respecting person working in the field of artificial intelligence and they’ll tell you self-driving cars still have a long way to go. That doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made, though, with the latest breakthrough from self-driving tech company Waymo being the ability to deal with traffic cops.
If the lights fail at a junction a traffic cop can be called in to ensure traffic keeps flowing while they are fixed. Such a situation would surely confuse a self-driving car system because it only understands lights at a junction. As CNET reports, Waymo decided to fix this by teaching its driving AI how to recognize and properly react to a traffic cop and the hand gestures they make that act as instructions.
As you can see in the video above, the Waymo self-driving system recognizes the traffic cop, comes to a stop, and them waits for the appropriate signal before driving on. The fact this works at all is impressive, but you also then realize no self-driving car can be allowed to function without a driver behind the wheel if this traffic cop recognition is missing. At some junctions around the world the traffic cop can be a permanent feature!
One other impressive feat Waymo’s AI has achieved is the distance between disengagements. Whenever the self-driving system on a car requires a human driver to take control it is called a disengagement. Waymo’s system is so mature and experienced now, it can travel 11,000 miles before a disengagement happens, and that distance is surely only set to grow.
We will see some self-driving cars in the future, but don’t think they are going to be on the road anytime soon. Autonomous vehicles are still many years from hitting the streets (other than select testing areas).