According to Google, it's engineers have been teaching the company's autonomous vehicles to "drive more cautiously around children." It's an ongoing process, and to help improve how its self-driving cars react to the unpredictable nature of children's movements, Google invited trick-or-treaters and their families to hang around its fleet of parked cars.
Even though the vehicles were parked, their sensors were hard at work learning what flesh and blood drivers already know -- that kids do some crazy things (and so adults, for that matter). It also presented an opportunity for the sensors and software to improve upon their ability to detect children of different shapes and sizes, including ones in Halloween costumes.
"When our sensors detect children -- costumed or not -- in the vicinity, our software understands that they may behave differently. Children's movements can be more unpredictable -- suddenly -- darting across the road or running down a sidewalk -- and they’re easily obscured behind parked cars. So even if our cars can’t quite appreciate the effort the kids put in dressing as their favorite character from Frozen, they’re still paying full attention!," Google says!
There are obvious concerns with handing off control of a vehicle to a computer and a set of sensors, though early data looks promising. The first injury involving Google's self-driving cars occurred last summer, and that was due to a distracted human driver, not Google's technology. Google also revealed over the summer that its autonomous vehicles had been involved in 11 accidents over the course of 1.7 million miles of testing, and in each of those instances, human drivers were at fault.