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Will All Self-Driving Cars React to Police This Way?

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Police Car Blue Red Emergency Lights Cop Vehicle Colors

As self-driving cars advance in sophistication, a lot of questions come up. Foremost in the public’s mind is undoubtedly worst-case scenarios like those in the Moral Machine experiment. However, there are more mundane, everyday questions to consider, like what a self-driving car will do when an emergency vehicle comes by.

Well, now we have one answer to that question. Waymo updated its “Emergency Response Guide” that outlines how the self-driving vehicles will deal with police, fire crews, and paramedics.

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Really, though, the answer is pretty underwhelming. The car detects the sirens or lights, and then pulls over when it finds a safe place to do so. From that point, it can unlock the doors and roll down windows so law enforcement can talk to Waymo’s remote Rider Support. The car won’t move if any airbags have gone off, a door is open, the vehicle is in park, or the parking brake is on. Alternatively, Waymo asks law enforcement to call them with the number on the car, and they can have it pull over or unlock the doors.

It is entirely possible that this could become a kind of blueprint for how other driverless car services could work in the near future. GM’s Cruise self-driving Bolts may soon be hitting the California streets without anyone behind the wheel. With this precedent in place, it is possible police departments in the area may soon be cruising around with a list of support numbers.

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Personally, I have to wonder if this is the most efficient way to deal with this. I assume that police and emergency responders may want a more immediate way to stop a problem vehicle. On the other hand, in everyday use this would presumably work just fine to simply get out of the way.

News Sources: Waymo, Washington Post, Jalopnik