Google's patent would use a forward-facing camera to scan traffic ahead. A short exposure would detect bright objects especially well, and the technology would then look for changes in color at the rear of surrounding cars. Based on how the light oscillates, the software could determine if the turn signal or hazard lights are flashing. Google's autonomous car would then have the programming to react accordingly.
Autonomous vehicles need this type of tech to survive in a world where they are still in the minority on the road. Turn signal identification would give the driverless system extra warning about what's happening in the environment and avoid a potential collision. As Google continues to expand its autonomous testing to more areas with different types of roads, the cars require more sophisticated software to deal with the challenges.
The company's driverless research could reportedly become its own business and morph into a taxi service. To get people to trust this future technology more, Google now needs to prove things are safe. Patents like this are one step toward making that happen because they increase autonomous vehicles ability to react to the real world.