Waymo Teaches Its Self-Driving Cars To Detect Emergency Vehicles

Waymo Teaches Its Self-Driving Cars To Detect Emergency Vehicles”

Self-driving cars developed by Google's autonomous vehicle company, Waymo, are being taught how to recognise emergency vehicles.

For self-driving cars to become commonplace, they will need to be equipped to handle every possible traffic scenario that could come their way. Google, through its self-driving auto subsidiary Waymo, has been working on the latter task, and recently teamed up with a local Arizona fire and police department to conduct its "first emergency vehicle testing day" with the company's fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacificas. Over the course of the day, the minivans observed various emergency vehicles - including police cars, police motorcycles, ambulances, and fire trucks - in different conditions.

Waymo recently posted on its Medium blog that last month it worked with Chandler Police and Fire on its first "emergency vehicle testing day".

Waymo explained: "As these emergency vehicles drove around, our sensors collected samples at various speeds, distances, and angles - all with the goal of building up a library of signals to help teach our self-driving cars to respond safely to emergency vehicles on the road". Waymo now says its self-driving Chrysler minivans, which were incorporated into its fleet in May past year, boast a new set of sensors that can hear sirens twice as far away as the previous set. Things are expected to improve in the future as engineers are developing new software that will be able to determine which direction the sirens are coming from. The new suite of sensors include an audio detection system designed in-house and an upgraded LiDAR and vision system, which are capable of seeing emergency vehicles and their flashing lights.

Waymo is training the software to not just detect the sirens, but pinpoint the direction the sirens are coming from, so when a fire truck or ambulance enters the area, the self-driving vehicle can make smarter decisions.

That way, Waymo says, its cars can recognise types of emergency vehicle they may never have seen before.

This training is key to reliably detecting and responding to emergency vehicles in Arizona and beyond.

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