It almost goes without saying that Google goes out of its way to program its self-driving cars to err on the side of caution. After all, not only would the risk of injury and damages be potentially devastating in the event of a crash, but such an event could also unravel years of PR efforts aimed at making the idea of automated vehicles acceptable on a wider scale.
A few weeks ago, a cyclist going by the screen name Oxtox posted the story of one of his memorable encounters with the car on the roadbikereview.com forums. "Near the end of my ride today," he wrote, "we both stopped at an intersection with 4-way stop signs. the car got to the stop line a fraction of a second before I did, so it had the [right of way.] I did a track-stand and waited for it to continue on through."
He claims that the car, which was covered in Go-Pros, noticed him at the intersection and stopped for several seconds before starting to move again. Oxtox's bike rolled forward about an inch, though, which the car interpreted as him taking the right of way, and stopped. A while later, it started to move again, only he had to rock a little to maintain his balance.
It's a deadlock all too familiar to drivers, but more than a little exaggerated over what we're used to seeing.
They remained in deadlock for what Oxtox described as "about two full minutes," during which the two Google employees in the car's backseat were "laughing and punching stuff into a laptop."
Ultimately though, he ended his post on a high note, claiming that he "felt safer dealing with a self-driving car than a human-operated one."
The encounter took place around Austin, Texas, where Google is currently testing its latest iteration of self-driving cars on public roads. Encounters like this are exactly what the tech giant is looking for from these tests, as they provide valuable information and context researchers would otherwise be unable to find in a lab. "From pedicabs to pickup trucks, Austin's streets will give our self-driving car some new learning experiences," a company spokesperson said in a statement.
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