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Ford Looks to Help Lane-Splitting Motorcyclists With New Safety Patent

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If you’re not familiar with the idea of lane splitting, there’s good enough reason: the practice of allowing motorcyclists to ride between lanes of vehicles is only legally permitted in California and not explicitly prohibited in 12 more. For the one state where lane splitting is legal and the others where it may not be a ticketable offense, Ford has filed a patent for driver-assistive safety technology that will help vehicles detect motorcyclists between rows of cars.

Autoblog uncovered a patent for “Detection of Lane-Splitting Motorcycles,” which was filed on Nov. 23, 2016, and published May 24 of this year.

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From the patent:

A controller receives images from a rearward-facing camera having an inter-lane region in the field of view thereof. A region of interest of the images is identified corresponding to the inter-lane region. The region of interest is converted to a grayscale image having a drastically reduced number of intensity levels. A difference image is determined between the grayscale image for each image relative to the grayscale image of a preceding image. If the non-zero pixels in the difference image exceed a threshold and the area of non-zero pixels in the difference images for the input images are increasing with time, a lane-splitting vehicle will be determined to be present and an alert may be generated and/or autonomous lane changes may be suppressed.

In layman’s terms: It’s a camera and sensor system that figures out if a motorcyclist is splitting lanes.

Whether Ford actually applies the technology to future vehicles would likely depend on scalability and the possibility of lane-splitting becoming legal in states other than California. Still, it seems somewhat more likely than Ford’s idea of a car that is also a motorcycle.

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News Sources: Autoblog, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office