Until autonomous vehicles become the status quo though, they will have to continue to conform to the transportation landscape as it is right now, and one of the more difficult challenges that automobile manufacturers face is how to handle motorcycles, especially as they filter and split lanes.
The Ford Motor Company is already working hard on that issue, and recently it was granted a patent by the USPTO for its lane-splitting detection system for autonomous vehicles.
According to the patent, Ford’s solution uses a combination of microphones and video cameras to detect the sound and shape of an approaching motorcycle.
Once the motorcycle has been detected, the autonomous vehicle then has the option of not changing lanes, signaling longer, or changing lanes more slowly.
Being able to detect approaching motorcycles is an immensely important feature for autonomous vehicles that operate in crowded urban areas that allow lane-sharing for motorcyclists, especially in markets like California and Europe.
Presumably, the technology could also be applied to non-autonomous vehicles as well, helping to alert drivers of an approaching lane-splitting motorcycle, and prevent the vehicle from driving into its path.
With the patent filed in late-2015, we probably won’t have to wait too long to see it appearing in Ford’s vehicles. And hopefully, other manufacturers follow suit.
It is also interesting to note that technology like Ford’s could help other states, besides California, in their passage of lane-splitting law for motorcyclists, as motorcycle-detecting vehicles will only make the practice even more safe than we already know it to be.