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Lyft Granted Patent for Tech Allowing Self-Driving Cars to Communicate with Pedestrians

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【Summary】Ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. was granted a U.S. patent for a “autonomous vehicle notification system” that communicates with pedestrians and other road users.

FutureCar Staff    Dec 12, 2018 12:24 PM PT
Lyft Granted Patent for Tech Allowing Self-Driving Cars to Communicate with Pedestrians

Ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. was granted a U.S. patent for a "autonomous vehicle notification system" that communicates with pedestrians and other road users. Among the features of the new system is the ability for a self-driving car to display messages to a customer waiting to be picked up.

The patent was filed April 23, 2018 and was granted on Dec 11.

In a future of autonomous mobility, if a person summons a self-driving Lyft vehicle, the car might be able to display the name of the person on the windshield, so the person easily spot the vehicle when it approaches to pick them up.

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In addition, Lyft's patented system allows autonomous vehicles to "talk" to each other, displaying messages to alert nearby autonomous vehicles of their intended actions. For example, if two self-driving vehicles are approaching an intersection at the same time, one vehicle might display a "yielding", "safe to cross" or "turning right" message so the other another vehicle or pedestrian knows it is safe to cross through the intersection.

This feature can also alert passengers in each vehicle, give them the piece of mind of knowing what safe driving decisions are being performed by the vehicle's software.

Among the applications of the system is a transparent display embedded into the windshield or side window glass that displays messages depending on the scenario encountered. This system can use a self-driving vehicle's sensors with object classification to identify a bicyclists, pedestrian, or another vehicle.

If a bicyclist was turning in front of an autonomous vehicle operating on Lyft's network, it might display message directed to the rider that the car is yielding, so it's safe to cross in front.

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In addition to a notifications message, Lyft submitted multiple diagrams in its patent application that show a speaker for audible warnings, and a in-vehicle projector that may be able to display a message directly on the road surface in front of the vehicle.

Both Lyft, and its main U.S. rival Uber, are in a race to develop self-driving technology. Both ride-hailing companies hope to have self-driving cars operating on their networks in urban areas in the near future.

With its newly granted patent, Lyft is preparing for a future when autonomous vehicles are regularly summoned with its ride-hailing app. The technology might help in situations where there are self-driving vehicles sharing the road with human operated ones, since a human driver cannot rely on visual cues from another car without a person behind the wheel.

Lyft intended this communications device to replace the verbal and non-verbal communications that normally exist between drivers, ride-hailing passengers and other road users in urban traffic and pick-up and drop off locations used by Lyft.

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