Left-hand turns are one of the tougher things drivers have to do. They result in far more accidents than right-hand turns, and have been called “the bane of traffic engineers.” The challenge of turning left holds for self-driving cars, too. A Google patent application that was published online last week details a system to assist its self-driving vehicles in difficult situations, such as certain left-hand turns.
Google describes how its self-driving vehicles could reach out to a remote assistant to advise on situations such as right turns on red, temporary stop signs, lane blockages and whether a passenger has gotten in or out of the vehicle. This assistant might be a remote computer, a human in a remote location or even the vehicle’s passenger.
The application details the challenge of one type of left-hand turn. A car (labeled 402 below) is unsure of whether it can turn because of a vehicle (labeled 406) sitting partially on the shoulder and partially in the travel lane