Waymo, in collaboration with the Chandler Police and Fire, is currently on a quest to comprehensively collect relevant data in order to better detect ambulances and other emergency vehicles while their automated vehicles are on the road. The company is making use of equipment like sensors, LIDAR and vision systems, in order to collect information about how emergency vehicles look and sound in different driving situations.
This setup is necessary to ensure the most data collection possible. These pieces of information can then be incorporated into the automated vehicle’s software, which should help in future identification of ambulances, fire trucks, and even undercover vehicles. Once the emergency vehicle is recognized, Waymo minivans may then clear off the vehicle’s path.
Waymo has also installed improved audio sensors to better detect the direction from which the sounds originate. These sensors may pinpoint the direction of the ambulances and firetrucks through the sirens, and this should help in determining the best possible course of action on the part of the automated vehicles. Waymo has improved the range of its sensors, compared to the previous sets of sensors it used on the automated vehicles. The current sensors can identify sounds twice as far as previously possible. Also, the minivans can use visual cues like flashing lights to improve the identification of emergency vehicles.
The results of real world driving tests so far on Waymo’s automated vehicles have been promising. This means that the combination of comprehensive data collection and the inclusion of the new sensors have been successful. For example, according to reports, Waymo’s automated minivan opted to not cross an intersection upon detecting a nearby ambulance. This decision was made despite other vehicles moving through the intersection after the traffic light went green.
We can expect improved technology, enhanced sensors and more comprehensive data collection to improve the safety of self-driving vehicles in the next few years. This in turn will boost road safety for everyone involved once self-driving cars become widespread.