Google Patents Vision-Based Indicator Signal Detection System

Google Vision-Based Indicator Signal Detection Using Spatiotemporal Filtering 1 photo
Photo: Google via USPTO
From a mere startup to the third most valuable brand in the world behind Apple and Microsoft, Google is one of the biggest success stories of the dot-com bubble. But Larry Page and Sergey Brin will not stop here. The next biggest thing is the Google self-driving car, one of the most controversial subjects of the automotive world right now.
After conquering automotive infotainment with Android Auto, Google is now pouring millions of dollars into automotive driving technology. After headlines such as taking the steering wheel off autonomous cars and expanding self-driving car testing to Phoenix, Arizona, Google makes the news once again with the patent attached in the PDF below.

US patent 9,305,223 B1 was published on April 5, 2016, after being filed on June 26, 2013. Its title doesn’t say much at first glance: Vision-Based Indicator Signal Detection Using Spatiotemporal Filtering.” But then you read the fine print and look at the figure above. Yes, what the boffins at Google have patented this time around is a turn signal detection system for autonomous cars. How does it work, though?

To answer that, you first need to know that the system consists of a forward-facing camera attached to the roof of the vehicle, a camera that scans the road ahead of the car. The software is configured to detect an active turn signal indicator on another car. I can’t put it more simply than that. Oh well, if you insist:

“The autonomous vehicle captures the image with a short exposure to emphasize objects having brightness above a threshold.” In other words, the turn signal indicators, brake lights, and headlamps. “A bounding area for a second vehicle located within the image is determined. The autonomous vehicle identifies a group of pixels within the bounding area based on a first color of the group of pixels.” Care to guess what color that is?

“The autonomous vehicle also calculates an oscillation of an intensity of the group of pixels. Based on the oscillation of the intensity, the autonomous vehicle determines the likelihood that the second vehicle has a first active turn signal. The autonomous vehicle is controlled based at least on the likelihood that the second vehicle has a first active turn signal.” In plain English, the system can multitask, alright.

By giving the autonomous car more information about what’s happening in front of it, the turn signal detection system ups the ante in terms of safety. Think of it as a collision avoidance system. The question is, what about the Buick driver who leaves the blinker on forever? Spoken in the voice of HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey: ”I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I cannot pass that blockhead because his turn signal is on.”
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Mircea Panait
Mircea Panait profile photo

After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories