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Google's self-driving cars can't handle bicycle track stands

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
August 30, 2015
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Ever performed a track stand, where you keep your bike upright at a stop without taking your feet off the pedals? If you have, you'll want to avoid trying that around Google's self-driving cars, at least for a while. One Austin-based cyclist reports an encounter where one of the autonomous cars was comically unsure of what to do when it spotted him doing a track stand at an intersection. Every time his bike moved even slightly, the car would lurch forward and promptly hit the brakes. Nothing happened beyond some good laughs, but it was clear that Google's self-driving code didn't know how to handle a not-quite-stationary bike.

Google is upbeat about the whole affair, telling the Washington Post that this is the kind of real-world input it's looking for as it develops its intelligent vehicle tech. However, this is also a friendly reminder of how far autonomous vehicles have to go. There are many, many road hazards that are hard to anticipate, even if you've had a lot of experience on the road. The one consolation is that these very early self-driving cars are still predictable in a way that human-operated models aren't. As the cyclist notes, he already felt "safer" around this robotic ride -- imagine what happens when it eventually understands how to react in complex situations.

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