Google Driverless Cars: Now Patented

    December 15, 2011
    Chris Crum

I’m sure you’ve heard about the driverless cars Google has by now. It’s just one of those interestingly wacky things Google does.

Now, the company has actually got the patent on the technology. Specifically, the patent granted to Google this week (hat tip to Tech Radar) is: Transitioning a mixed-mode vehicle to autonomous mode.

Here’s what the abstract for the patent says:

Disclosed are methods and devices for transitioning a mixed-mode autonomous vehicle from a human driven mode to an autonomously driven mode. Transitioning may include stopping a vehicle on a predefined landing strip and detecting a reference indicator. Based on the reference indicator, the vehicle may be able to know its exact position. Additionally, the vehicle may use the reference indictor to obtain an autonomous vehicle instruction via a URL. After the vehicle knows its precise location and has an autonomous vehicle instruction, it can operate in autonomous mode.

So essentially, Google has the patent on vehicles that can switch from human driven to robot driven, if I’m understanding it correctly.

Here are a few videos of Google’s cars in action:

Google has downplayed how much of its resources it is actually putting into things like driverless cars. On an earnings call in July, CEO Larry Page said, “Overall we’re focused on long-term, absolute profit and growth.,” reiterating a point he had made that “speculative” projects like driverless cars are not something the company is “betting the farm on”.

It would be interesting to know if having the patent changes just how much they are betting on the technology.

Earlier this year, a law was passed in Nevada, making the cars legal. One was actually involved in a car accident at one point, though it was reportedly determined that there was actually a human driving it when that happened.