Google Looking at Autonomous Cars That You Can Manually Drive Too?

By Sam Gibbs on at

Certainly sounds like it. Google's just been awarded a patent for "transitioning a mixed-mode vehicle to autonomous mode". It specifically talks about how to transition a "mixed-mode" vehicle from human control to autonomous control.

Google also complains that GPS just isn't accurate enough, saying the system would require a "landing strip" over which the vehicle can drive and convert between manual and automatic control.

Considering GPS can have an error range of about 10m I can see its point. 10-metres while walking isn't a big deal, but in a car it could mean the difference between stopping short of a junction and catapulting right into the middle of it. Using a specific section of road to swap over, means the car will know precisely where it is when you let it have control by hitting a location server address that's concealed in a QR code. Once the vehicle is back in control, the plan is to use a combo of maps and GPS to get you to your destination.

Google's pretty big into driverless cars, but this reminds me more of the cars out of Demolition Man or I, Robot. I'm all for cars that take away the tedium of cruising the motorway, but I'm pretty keen on the actual driving bit when it comes to blasting down country roads. Sounds like Google's hit the nail on the head with this one -- bring on the mixed-mode vehicles. [USPTO via Twitter]