Waymo self-driving car navigates flashing traffic light, follows police signals

February 25, 2019

Self-driving cars aren't ready for prime time yet, but they continue to show promising signs of intelligence. The latest example is Waymo's self-driving Chrysler Pacifica that successfully navigated a broken traffic light and followed a police officer's hand signals.

The quick video shows the self-driving car's view with the real-world view in the corner. In the video Waymo released, we can see the autonomous car approached the intersection with the down traffic light where a police officer directed traffic. Instead of motoring forward because it didn't detect a red light, the vehicle sat at the intersection as the officer directed cross traffic and began to accelerate once the officer motioned with his hand to let the self-driving car's lanes move forward.

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It's remarkable to see the car handle human interaction with ease. There's perhaps a minor delay after the officer waves the self-driving car on, but according to Waymo, there was no human interference with the system. This was all the car and its software. We'd also imagine it'd be fairly simple to confuse the car as the officer waves his hands in different directions. The fact the self-driving systems recognized what the hand motions meant and interpreted them correctly is, bluntly, mesmerizing.

The video highlights one of the unique circumstances self-driving cars face on the road. Hundreds of strange incidents can strike drivers in an instant, and Waymo showed its cars are well on their way to handling the road. Tests continue while Waymo operates the industry's first paid ride-sharing service with self-driving vehicles for selected and screened riders in Arizona.

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