“Drivers and pedestrians are accustomed to interacting in particular ways, removing a driver from some vehicles can lead to uncertainty and miscommunication,” says the patent. And the document shows some ways the described system could be used to communicate with the humans surrounding an autonomous vehicle. One image shows a car displaying the intended passenger’s name as it approaches them while another depicts a self-driving car notifying a pedestrian that it’s safe to walk in front of the car. The patent also includes images showing a self-driving car letting another vehicle know it’s yielding and informing a cyclist that it’s safe to pass.
Other companies have explored similar systems for enabling communication between autonomous vehicles and humans. Uber has also applied for a patent regarding communication technology, while Drive.ai vans feature displays that communicate the vehicle’s intent. And Daimler’s autonomous EQ Fortwo concept car includes a panel for displaying information.
Lyft has been working on its own self-driving cars since 2017 and while this patent, like plenty of others, may never be put into action, it’s interesting to see where Lyft’s technology might be headed.