Ford asks for a common language for self-driving cars

It wants every car to signal its intentions the same way.

Ford has been developing its own means for self-driving cars to communicate their intent, but it also knows that fragmentation could be a huge problem in the autonomous driving world. How are you supposed to know what cars are doing when each one has a different visual cue? Accordingly, Ford has issued a memorandum of understanding that asks the industry to create a signalling standard for cars capable of at least SAE Level 4 automation (that is, they can handle all driving tasks under some conditions). It hopes the exchange of standards will lead to a common language that human drivers and pedestrians will understand, regardless of where they live or how tech-savvy they may be.

The memorandum comes alongside existing talks with the International Organization of Standardization and the Society of Automotive Engineers to create a common interface. Ford is unsurprisingly partial to its own flashing light system, but it's willing to change fundamental aspects of the design so long as the intent is "readily understandable."

It's too soon to say if automakers and self-driving tech developers will bite. These companies serve countries with varying road rules and cultural expectations, and they might not be ready to settle on a single worldwide language. However, there's little doubt that some kind of harmony is necessary -- no one wants the kind of confusion that could lead to a collision.