The patent describes using electronic screens mounted on the side of the vehicle — including potentially the roof, hood and rear of vehicle — to tell a pedestrians if it was safe to cross. The displays might show a stop sign, a traffic sign, or just text. The car might react by coming to a complete stop, slowing down and yielding, or maintaining its speed.
The patent also suggests some other options. A speaker on the outside of the vehicle might call out alerts, such as “coming through” or “safe to cross.” Perhaps most interesting is the potential use of a robotic hand and eyes to gesture at pedestrians and make them aware that the car “sees” them.
On Tuesday, Google also received a patent for unlocking a driverless vehicle when approaching a passenger. The patent describes using Bluetooth or a local network to identify the close proximity of the user’s smartphone, and then unlocking the doors. Such a system would be essential if the technology was rolled out as an autonomous taxi fleet.