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An Overview of Google's Driverless Car Patents

According to Steve van Dulken of BL Research Service, five patents have been filed and only one has been granted so far.

The only patent granted so far is entitled Transitioning a mixed-mode vehicle to autonomous mode, which we reported on shortly after it was published by the USPTO last December.

Four more patents are currently pending:

1. Traffic Signal Mapping and Detection
2. Zone Driving
3. Diagnosis and repair for autonomous vehicles
4. System and method for predicting behaviors of detected objects

What makes this set of patents especially interesting is their credited inventors. With the exception of patent number four (4), Christopher Urmson is part of the remaining four patents. In patent one (1), Urmson is credited together with Sebastian Thrun, vice president and fellow at Google, and possible Google's best known scientist at Google X and the public face of Google's driverless car system. Thrun headed Stanford University's self-driving car effort which won the DARPA Grand Challenge with the "Stanley" car in 2005 and placed second in 2007 with "Junior". Thrun was a professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford between 2007 and 2011 and joined Google in April 2011 full time.

Urmson was also a major contender in the DARPA Grand Challenge and was the technology lead at Carnegie Mellon University's Tartan Racing team, which won the 2007 Grand Challenge and its $2 million prize. Their vehicle "Boss", a modified Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, covered a 60 mile road course in 4 hours and 10 minutes, ahead of Stanford's Junior, which arrived after 4 hours and 29 minutes. Only six teams finished the event. Virgina Tech was third, MIT fourth, a team consisting of University of Pennsylvania and Lehigh University fifth and Cornell University sixth.

With Urmson and Thrun, Google has the most experienced individuals on its staff to develop a self-driving car. Along with Urmson, Google appears to have hired the Who's Who of DARPA Grand Challenge contenders, including Nathaniel Fairfield, Philip Nemec, Michael Montemerlo, Dmitri Dolgov, and David Ferguson.

  • killerclick
    I can't wait for this to be implemented. I suffer from a rare neurological condition called Unability to distinguish between a child and a crumpled packet of cigarettes-itis and the sooner I'm off the road, the better.

    Meanwhile, if you're interested in how to hide or remove the damage and blood traces from hitting wildlife on the road, visit my blog www.hejustcameoutofnowhere.com
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    When driverless cars are just like Minority Report it will be so cool, all the freedom of owning your own vehicle, but the ability to watch a movie or TV show on your tablet like a public transport commuter
    Reply
  • The negativity towards car culture these days is ridiculously annoying. It seems the year 2000 rolled around and suddenly cars are evil, driving is a hassle, and anything other than a Prius makes Captain Planet cry. What ever happened to cars being cool? Your first car meant you were now independent, you could load all your friends in and just go for a drive and catch dinner and a movie. It wasn't uncommon in the 60's and 70's for your first time with a girl to be in the back of your car. Your car really represented who you were, with fastback Plymouths, Dogde, and Fords; or going to the drive in with a cute girl in your Chevelle, Skylark or whatever you had at the time. It was a part of you in more ways than you could ever imagine. This seems to be lost now.

    Call me old school but these silly automatic-everything prius things will never be a part of your personality, they will never be cool and they will never be fun.
    Reply
  • eddieroolz
    The strange absence of any criticism of the patent system is quite noticeable. It only happens when Google is benefiting from the said system.
    Reply
  • vertigo_2000
    eddieroolzThe strange absence of any criticism of the patent system is quite noticeable. It only happens when Google is benefiting from the said system.There just one small, insignificant, teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy difference... Google is actually inventing something TO patent.
    Reply
  • aeurix
    Traffic accidents cause a lot of unfortunate fatalities... with any hope these automated cars will reduce, or in the long run, eliminate that.

    Next up we should eliminate guns so people can't commit murders (Aurora), and spoons/forks so people can't die of heart disease. haha, just kidding. But the reducing traffic deaths is a good start at chipping away from the top 10 causes of death in the world.
    Reply
  • Wait until Google gets blown away by the FAR superior product that Apple releases. Google doesn't stand a chance of surviving, unless the copy like they always do.
    Reply
  • derkman
    HAVOCcuas3rWait until Google gets blown away by the FAR superior product that Apple releases. Google doesn't stand a chance of surviving, unless the copy like they always do.
    Can't tell if serious or trolling.
    Reply
  • eddieroolz
    vertigo_2000There just one small, insignificant, teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy difference... Google is actually inventing something TO patent.
    You can argue easily that Apple's adaptations and inventions, whatever they may be, are also valid inventions. You can't simply dismiss Apple's track record as "invalid" simply because you may be a Google fan.

    Example? Original iPod. It's just a combination of parts. But the form factor it made was brilliant for its time, and it stood the test of time until advent of iPod touch.

    iPhone? Yeah, the first one seriously lacked any punch. Heck, EDGE antenna in 2007 was outdated. But it did something that no other company managed to pull off; eschew hardware buttons for a big, spacious (for 2007) screen controlled by finger, in a good-looking form factor. Their patent for that design stands because no one has done that before.

    Basically, that's what it boils down to; whether you consider it to be actually useful or not, it doesn't matter. The inventor got there first, and if there was nothing like it before, they deserve the patent.
    Reply
  • dalethepcman
    I hope they do extensive testing in alternate weather/terrain conditions. It would suck to ask your car to drive you home because its snowing and you don't know how to drive in the snow, and the car rear-ends the next vehicle in front of it, because it doesn't know how to either..
    Reply