Lyft patents pedestrian notification system for self-driving cars

December 18, 2018

Self-driving cars pose a variety of challenges for automakers and technology companies, and Lyft has patented new technology to help make pedestrians more comfortable around autonomous vehicles.

The ride-sharing company received a patent for technology that turns the windows into screens to display messages to pedestrians, which Dezeen first discovered and reported last Friday. The messages can tell pedestrians what the car's next move is. For example, the windows can tell pedestrians the car is aware of their presence and it's safe to cross in front of the vehicle. Or it could alert them that the car is going to turn right or left. Other alerts include "safe to pass" and "yielding."

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Humans use eye contact to understand where a driver will go next. Without a human behind the wheel or a car, though, it leaves a self-driving vehicle's next move unknown. That uncertainty and mistrust may explain why Waymo logged 21 assaults on its self-driving cars in Arizona over the last year.

Although Lyft has patented the technology, there's no indication it plans to continue development. Other companies have also patented or shown off technology to solve the same problem. Mercedes-Benz developed a system of lights that mimic eye contact to show a self-driving car recognizes pedestrians and Apple patented technology that displays a timer until the car's next displayed move to make motorists and pedestrians aware.

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For ride-sharing, Lyft's system envisions the windows as a way to display who the car is intended to pickup. The rider's name could be displayed on the window/screen to reduce confusion and ensure a customer knows which car is theirs.

When connected cars proliferate, the patent also imagines each vehicle communicating messages between one another. Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology is expected to reach more consumer vehicles next decade.

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