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Google Actually Patenting Its April Fools' Joke

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the cart-decided-i-sucked-at-golf-and-went-home dept.

Google 152

theodp writes "On April Fools' Day, Google joked it was partnering with NASCAR on self-driving cars. Google Racing, the search giant joshed, had its roots in Project Caddy, which demonstrated the viability of self-driving golf carts. And in the future, Google added tongue-in-cheek, your kids will travel unattended in driverless-car car pools. Funny stuff, huh? Only thing is, GeekWire reports the USPTO disclosed Thursday that Google actually has a patent pending for driverless golf carts, as well as cars that can autonomously pick up kids from school and be switched into 'sport mode,' where 'the vehicle may navigate through turns at the maximum speed that is safe.' In addition to cars, trucks and golf carts, Google's patent application calls dibs on autonomous busses, boats, airplanes, helicopters, lawnmowers, recreational vehicles, amusement park vehicles, trams, trains, and trolleys. Google also describes how its invention will enable autonomous police cars to conduct high speed chases and give law enforcement vehicles 'a limited amount of control over nearby vehicles.' So, is the patent application legit, or did Google team up with the USPTO on a belated April Fools' goof?"

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Can they do that? (5, Insightful)

samazon (2601193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602071)

If they're applying for a patent, it means that they must have some sufficiently viable method of producing the tech. The "limited amount of control over nearby vehicles" sounds the most ominous, considering the inability of a percentage of law enforcement to not abuse their powers. I smell the singularity brewing inside the Googleplex....

Re:Can they do that? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602105)

enforced speed limits; which would improve traffic immensely.

Re:Can they do that? (3, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602129)

We'll make a trade: the police can insist that I follow their speed limits if those speed limits are set to the maximum speed that a well-maintained, maneuverable car can be driven safely under optimum conditions by a competent and alert driver.

Re:Can they do that? (3, Insightful)

samazon (2601193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602185)

With an autopilot system in a car (assumedly controlled by GPS and googlemaps, of course) and considering all the fancy gadgetry in new cars to prevent collisions, the speed limits should increase significantly. I mean, how many accidents will occur once human error is removed from the equation?

Re:Can they do that? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602203)

"I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that"

(Just goes through my head when I think of this subject.)

Re:Can they do that? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602245)

You seem to imply that having autonomous cars removes human error from the equation. You are ignoring that:
A) Not all cars will be autonomous; those that aren't are obviously susceptible to human error.
B) The algorithms these cars use are still made by humans, and are thus susceptible to human error.
C) Not all cars would be on the same level of communication. It's up to humans to devise a standard, which is susceptible to human error.
D) There are always going to be humans not in cars on or around the streets, who are susceptible to human error.

Re:Can they do that? (2)

samazon (2601193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602373)

I wasn't implying anything. At some point, human error will be removed from the equation; it probably won't be in my lifetime, and the removal will probably be more along the lines of "reduced to a negligible amount" - maybe I read too much science fiction, maybe I read too much science fact, but I do mean technological singularity, and I do think that the path winds hence.

It'll be neat, right?

Re:Can they do that? (-1, Flamebait)

yesiree (1630527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602645)

"At some point, human error will be removed from the equation" Science and technology is the new Pope in town and our new religion, our saviour... Oh come on, I think we have come full circle now with the strong belief in our beautiful art called science, but isn't anything more than make belief. I am a technician myself, but can be quite tired sometimes with our BELIEF in ourself, and our child called science. I mean, who else but us arrogant humans can come up with the idea that we understand "laws of nature"? We are all arrogant pricks, small speck in the universe that think that we someday will know it all. Do you know what? I think it's ok not to know it all, and I think it's a way of life... at least in this life... ;-)

Re:Can they do that? (5, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603047)

Science isn't art. Please stop trying to minimize what you don't understand.

" I am a technician myself,
we got a bad ass over here!

" I mean, who else but us arrogant humans can come up with the idea that we understand "laws of nature"? "
The laws of natures are scientific laws based on current daa and understanding. Things that have been tested many, many times.

" I think it's ok not to know it all, "
Yes, nothing as warm as the blanket of ignorance.

And just so you know, human error is being removed already. many flights happen every day with no pilot interaction. Computer respond to incident much fast then people.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

kurzweilfreak (829276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39604271)

No one said that we know it all and obviously we don't or that would be the end of science. However, your belittling of what we have accomplished through the scientific method is quite ironic considering your use of a computer to post that ignorant opinion.

The simple fact is: science works, bitches. We ARE smart, intelligent creatures and we have created many wonderful things through our method of improving, self-correcting knowledge. I don't think it arrogant at all to be in awe of the things we know that we know as well as the things we know we don't yet know.

It certainly is ok to not know it all, but it is certainly not ok to not strive to know more than we did yesterday.

If you think that our scientific knowledge is useless and "make belief", then kindly, please, put your money where your mouth is, get off the computer and move back into a cave.

Re:Can they do that? (5, Insightful)

patchmaster (463431) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603013)

Human error will be removed from the equation not long after humans are removed from the equation.

Not all roads are limited access super-highways. I do most of my driving on surface streets. There is sufficiently little pedestrian traffic that one tends not to think about them, and just enough pedestrian traffic that forgetting about them becomes a big problem. Until you make it illegal for pedestrians to enter the roadway, there will be humans and human errors as parts of the equation.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603015)

there will be no singularity.

Sorry.

Re:Can they do that? (2)

SeanBlader (1354199) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602663)

You seem to imply that having autonomous cars removes human error from the equation. You are ignoring that: B) The algorithms these cars use are still made by humans, and are thus susceptible to human error.

Algorithms are not susceptible to human error, requirements for those algorithm's are. If you want to make sure the requirements are correct, you won't leave it to the government. And actual safe speed of a vehicle through a specific piece of terrain is often grossly under the limits of the vehicle, and the limits of the vehicle are often grossly above what the human body can tolerate. Traffic collisions are the cause of people without proper training or experience to know the capabilities of their vehicle given the conditions under which they are driven. In the end the problem is with education, which also seems to be a problem for a lot of our elected, chosen, or inherited representatives in the world, as well as the occasional Slashdot poster as well.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603065)

yes, those pesky government type with there algorithms that let place fly with out pilots, have a machine exciting are solar system, create better traffic flow.

The government is who you want making those algorithms because they hire the smartest people.

focused on human error? (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603125)

You forget that there are plenty of non human things that can go wrong:
A) Electronics can fail. Even redundant systems can fail.
B) Mechanics can fail in a way that the electronics aren't programmed to handle.
C) Environmental/External factors (i.e. EMP, sunflares, viruses, trojans, etc) can corrupt the required processing/communications.

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602273)

I mean, how many accidents will occur once human error is removed from the equation?

Yes, because we all know [howstuffworks.com] that GPS and street information can never be wrong. That truck driver won't just be stuck under the overpass, he'll be all the way through (just missing a bit of the trailer), since the vehicle will be going full, safe speed for that unpaved part of the superhighway.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602423)

well don'e you've boiled it down to the most extreme examples and ignored the on board safety system.

You really have no argument if you have to go to such extremes.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602863)

You really have no argument if you have to go to such extremes.

I went to no extremes. I simply pointed out that removing the human factor from the system doesn't necessarily mean that things will work better and there will be fewer accidents.

Humans are remarkably resilient and able to solve problems that computers cannot. Risk's Digest is filled with case of computer and system failure.

If a human sees that the "superhighway" that his computerized driving system has him on is made of gravel, he can override the system a long time before the "three inch sensor sticking up from the top of his truck" impacts the overpass. (By the time the sensor triggers, it's too late.) A human can see that the overpass is kinda short, even when a computerized camera cannot OCR the bridge information from the posted sign that is covered with dirt or hidden behind a tree branch.

The FAA has a history of blaming everything on "pilot error". They are just as wrong for doing that as anyone here is for assuming that getting humans out of the system will inherently make it safer.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603145)

Yes you did. You used examples that are completely unrealistic to haw driverless cars work.

"Humans are remarkably resilient and able to solve problems that computers cannot"
yes, but there are some problem computers can solve better and faster.

IN you example the system would realize it wasn't on the correct road in microseconds. It and probably adjust.

Computers system as FAR BETTER at getting dimension then humans are. Humans are horrible at getting accurate speed, distance, size.

And it would use laser finder to determine the actual bridge position, not read some damn sign.

You are way out of your depth on what these systems can do.

There are a lot of case where computer system in airplane have recovered from incidents faster then a pilot cna recognize the issue, much less do anything.

Technological advancements will make the roads safer, life more enjoyable, and generally better over all.

Driver less cars will mean a lot fewer accidents.
When people drive an make a mistake that causes an accident, there is not a way to fix the same mistake in all the humans. SO the same stupid judgement errors happen 100s of times a day,.

With an automated system, all the systems 'learn' from a previous systems mistake.

However, there will be no singularity.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

LordKronos (470910) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602661)

I mean, how many accidents will occur once human error is removed from the equation?

Yes, because we all know [howstuffworks.com] that GPS and street information can never be wrong. That truck driver won't just be stuck under the overpass, he'll be all the way through (just missing a bit of the trailer), since the vehicle will be going full, safe speed for that unpaved part of the superhighway.

Lets see, since there cameras and sensors all over these autonomous vehicles, I guess it will be literally impossible to add one more sensor that sticks up about 3 inches or so above the trailer to detect potential collisions. Plus bridges are often labeled with signs indicating their height. It would literally be impossible to have all of those cameras OCR those signs as an additional indicator of a potential collision. And since I thought of these 2 possibilities in 60 seconds, theres no way there could possibly be any additional possibilities given just a bit more thought, and no way the guys at google could possibly think of the same. Nope, it's convertible trailer time for sure.

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602915)

I think a little more than GPS is required to safely drive.
1. Stereographic cameras (The car must be able to see "depth" if it's following too close or sudden obstructions), can also be done with Radar or Sonar. Until all cars can communicate with each other (including manned cars) this is required.
2. Realtime mapping with traffic to determine where roads are closed and traffic is rerouted
3. Collision/hazard avoidance systems to determine maximum safe speeds by determining the road condition and weather. You might want to go 55MPH on highway grade, but 35MPH if the road is of a coarser grade, and 20mph if it's rocks or sand. I think this can be done with high resolution cameras to see the road surface texture.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602239)

Sure, you won't be driving anyway. And the robot driver will drive as fast as it is programmed to believe is safe (or efficient if that's that's what is actually cared about).

Re:Can they do that? (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602345)

You had me up to "...under optimum conditions by a competent and alert driver."

Define "competent and alert driver"

Re:Can they do that? (2)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602379)

Computer.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602409)

It will be better then that since it can calculate optimum flow based on far more variables. Number of vehicles, acceleration / deceleration ramp load, and consistent speed.

people will perceive it as slower, but it will actually be faster over all.

"by a competent and alert driver."
it will be far more competences and alert then you are.

AS soon as you add another human driver to the road, the speed that can be driven safely drops dramatically.
You're control and safe speed is an illusion based in you own bias and lack of data.

Re:Can they do that? (4, Insightful)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602453)

So when a less-than-alert driver driving a less-than-well-maintained car is driving over the ridiculously low speed limit in less-than-optimal conditions on the less-than optimally maintained road on which you also happen to be driving doesn't end up killing you: is that worth anything?

Re:Can they do that? (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603851)

Give that post a mod point!

As a licensed driver for 35yrs I say anyone who cannot comprehend that point and obey the posted speed limit is NOT a competent driver. Turns out any fool with lady luck in the passenger seat can push a rust busket to it's 'safe limits' and survive to drink another beer. I was definitely an incompetent driver when I was young and I fully deserved the 4-5yrs of constant legal trouble that came my way because of it. Looking back now, having seen friends and teenage children of friends die from the sheer arrogant stupidity that seems inate to young men in cars I realise how very fortunate I was not to have maimed or killed someone.

Ignoring speed limits and driving at the 'safe limits' of a car on a public road really requires the ability to accurately read the minds of everyone else around you. Since accurate mind reading requires an exchange of tea leaves we have the next best thing, road rules! There's also a licensing regime to ensure every driver knows how every other driver expects them to behave. Watch a police chase on the TV, the only reason the perp and the cops can drive like that is because the other drivers are abiding by the rules and behaving in a predictable manner. In fact when a semi-driver listening to his CB radio DISOBEYS the rules and blocks two lanes then the perp is fucked.

Now to assume every driver in day to day traffic will strictly adhere to the rules is suicidal, but knowing what to expect makes incompetent drivers much easier to spot and avoid, even when the incompetent driver is a younger more alert you..

Your's sincerly,
Crusty Old Bastard.

Re:Can they do that? (2)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39604161)

As a licensed driver for 35yrs I say anyone who cannot comprehend that point and obey the posted speed limit is NOT a competent driver. Turns out any fool with lady luck in the passenger seat can push a rust busket to it's 'safe limits' and survive to drink another beer. I was definitely an incompetent driver when I was young and I fully deserved the 4-5yrs of constant legal trouble that came my way because of it. Looking back now, having seen friends and teenage children of friends die from the sheer arrogant stupidity that seems inate to young men in cars I realise how very fortunate I was not to have maimed or killed someone.
As a licensed driver for 25 years, most of that driving done over the speed limit, I say that you have succumbed to the nervous-nelliedom of old age. Yeah, I drove a little crazier when I was younger because I didn't know the limits of my abilities or those of the car, but I knew then and I know now that those abilities have nothing to do with the number on the sign.

Ignoring speed limits and driving at the 'safe limits' of a car on a public road really requires the ability to accurately read the minds of everyone else around you. Since accurate mind reading requires an exchange of tea leaves we have the next best thing, road rules!

Sure, you can't really drive at the full limits of your car's ability on a public road. I've taken my car around a certain set of curves with the speedometer pegged (somewhere north of 110mph, probably). No way could I do that with traffic on the road. On the other hand, the road is posted at 55mph -- there's a lot of room in between.

There's another set of curves where I used to joke that that limit only made sense for a dump truck in a blizzard. Until I ended up going through those curves behind a dump truck in a blizzard, and he was doing 10mph over with no problem.

If they ever start setting them appropriately, maybe I'll start paying attention (probably not, I'm too old and set in my ways). But until then, I'm not even going to feel an iota of guilt for violating them.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603055)

You should try out driving in LA. Going the speed limit feels like you are going warp speed compared to the other cars driving 17 in a 35.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

zoloto (586738) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603927)

the police can insist that I follow their speed limits...

These limits do not belong to the police. The police do not set the rules, laws, limits etcetera. They merely enforce with some measure of consistency.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603273)

probably more about getting nearby vehicles out of the way quick smart before they get t-boned.

would be amazing for those blind/deaf/selfish SUVs that don't get out of the way when an Ambulance is coming up behind them. i'd rather ambos and fireys have this tech than your regular Melbourne cop though.

Melbourne cop's (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#39604157)

Sometimes you have to fight arseholes with arseholes. I think Melbourne's cops are doing a great job in that respect!

Since the time I started HS (1969) to the present, I have seen Melbourne's cops become more and more strict on road rules, especially drinking and speeding. The number of cars on the road must be at least 10x what it was back then. However the road toll in that same time period has been reduced by ~80%. Yes, seatbelts and other technical meausres are part of that, but they are not the full story since comprable situations elsewhere that have not implemented things like cameras and booze busses to the extent we have, have not seen such a dramatic improvement.

OTOH I have great memories of (legally) driving down (a 2 lane) springvale rd at 90mph in a red bettle to go fishing at Chelsea after dad knocked of work. Freedom lost and security gained, not because of any conspiracy, it's simply because the number of people on this rock has more than doubled since I was born. More people means a greater effort is required to keep basic order in a society that is only getting more congested and claustrophobic over time. Civilization itself is a 'recent' freedom limiting invention and is a direct result of our remarkable tool-making ability. We have not evolved to live in cities of millions and tribes of hunderds of millions, our 'souls' and instincts were built by nature to work in tribes of 1-200 individuals and are still somewhat confused by all this, but the tool-maker inside us all insist he can fix the civilization tool with yet more tools.

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39603845)

In what way would everyone mindlessly obeying some arbitrary and nearly always incorrect assignment of "maximum safe speed" improve anything? Especially if the effect would universally be to make traffic slower?

Re:Can they do that? (2)

crispylinetta (1639533) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602229)

I just googled that question and got the response, "Yes, I can." So there ya go.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602237)

If they're applying for a patent, it means that they must have some sufficiently viable method of producing the tech.

No, it means they are afraid that somebody else has.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602241)

If they're applying for a patent, it means that they must have some sufficiently viable method of producing the tech.

Why? Patent trolls certainly don't...

Re:Can they do that? (1)

samazon (2601193) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602301)

You're right. I'm assuming (and we all know what that means...) that when Google applied for the patent they did so with the intent of receiving the patent (properly, with schematics and specific detail), rather than as a way to keep other companies from working on the tech.

Re:Can they do that? (4, Interesting)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602249)

They're going to have a hard time controlling all the older vehicles, too, nevermind the ones which run without any electronics (other than the battery and coil).

Oh, right - that's why they wanted to get rid of all those highly efficient older and still serviceable vehicles from the 1980s via Cash for Clunkers: you can't chip or wirelessly control a vehicle which has no computer.

Re:Can they do that? (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602437)

except they aren't highly efficient.

I mean, yeah getting the polluters of the road is mart of an evil master scheme.

twit.

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602799)

You know what? I actually really fucking hate you.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602817)

In absolute power? No. But in fuel economy, many of them were. They offered a lot more utility than your average modern sedan, or whatever you want to call the Prius.

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602305)

Actually having the technology to do so is not a criteria on applying a patent. I can probably patent for FTL or making a transporter or a time machine.
These days for legit business, it is a "just in case" defense against other patent trolls should they managed to work out a product in the next 10 years or so.

I am not so sure about trains/trolleys as there are automated subway systems in the world.

Re:Can they do that? (2)

Zordak (123132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602347)

If they're applying for a patent, it means that they must have some sufficiently viable method of producing the tech. The "limited amount of control over nearby vehicles" sounds the most ominous, considering the inability of a percentage of law enforcement to not abuse their powers. I smell the singularity brewing inside the Googleplex....

Actually, all it means is that they have filed a patent application. You can file an application on any old nonsense you want as long as you pay the filing fee. But looking at this application (without spending any substantial time on it), it looks like they have a fairly beefy disclosure. In any case, this doesn't look like a "joke" application. This looks like the real thing.

Re:Can they do that? (4, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602603)

That's really disappointing, given the number of auto manufacturers who could and should be given the opportunity to pursue driverless cars without a by-your-leave from Google. I mean the idea has long been around in sci-fi, look at Arnie's Johnny cab in Total Recall. And it is just an idea at this point. It would be like patenting horseless carriages or something.

open sourcing it (3, Informative)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603159)

They're waiting on Google to open source their autonomous car OS...so that Google can make money on the ads it can display to your surfing the web, checking email, or watching youtube videos...instead of driving.

Re:Can they do that? (2)

Zordak (123132) | more than 2 years ago | (#39604141)

Well, this isn't yet a patent on anything. It's just an application. And even if the claims issue as they're now written, it's not a patent on the basic idea of driverless cars. "I claim a car that operates itself without a driver" would immediately be shot down by the examiner on prior art and probably on lack of specificity too.

This application is claiming a specific method of automatically driving a car. Granted, claim 1 as it's currently written is fairly broad, but if it survives without Google having to narrow it, it will be the exception, not the rule (I only rarely see a patent issue without the claims being amended at all). As for whether it should survive without being amended, I couldn't even hazard a wild guess without analyzing the claims and searching the prior art to see what else is out there. So long story short, it's not time to panic just yet.

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602485)

Have you seen the OnStar commercial where the police have OnStar remotely disable the vehicle they are chasing? The future is already here, guys!

Re:Can they do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602763)

The "limited amount of control over nearby vehicles" sounds the most ominous, considering the inability of a percentage of law enforcement to not abuse their powers.

It gets quite tiring to read these comments, along the lines of "oh boy, these mere high school grads are going to become even more of a nuisance, let's not give them the tools that can prove invaluable in legitimate emergencies". There is an inability of a percentage of every segment of our society not to abuse their power - why do we give them freedom to assemble, or vote, or buy guns, or have kids? If you're so concerned that your police force isn't more honest, why don't you try doing law enforcement? I'm sure your impeccable honesty would make a grand contribution.

Oh wait, we'd all rather criticize their work and lack of intelligence/ethic/etc. from our arm chairs, as we have better things to do than concern ourselves with how we are actually able to sleep soundly at night.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

GmExtremacy (2579091) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602953)

why do we give them freedom to assemble, or vote, or buy guns, or have kids?

Because that's very similar to collective punishment, and it has nothing to do with limiting the government's authority (authority the average person doesn't have).

There is no perfect system; no one to my knowledge denies that. However, if you give people lots of authority, there will be abuses. More so than with the average person. We want to minimize this as much as we can without completely getting rid of the useful functions of said authority figures.

Oh wait, we'd all rather criticize their work and lack of intelligence/ethic/etc. from our arm chairs

Whether it's from their "arm chairs" or somewhere else, this by no means affects the validity of their criticisms.

Re:Can they do that? (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603773)

More to the point, the ability for the police to stop a car instead of chasing after it provides better safety for everyone without giving them any real new powers that flashing their lights didn't already entail. Unless you try to outrun the police when they flash their lights, it makes no difference to you as the person they're pulling over.

Insightful, really? (1)

Niscenus (267969) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602861)

The description suggests a risk of prior art being easy (I'll bet a number of slashdotters have automated lawn mowers and even more have vacuums). However, the patent trolling RIM got a few years back shows you don't have to DO anything to file a patent on an idea, just get there first. People who couldn't even afford to SeaLaunch a satellite described wireless communication devices that people might use for email exchange and ten years later, someone they sold it to, who had then been bought by another company, well, that 'nother company said, "Hey, we own blackberry. I bet we can extort some cash."

Re:Can they do that? (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603371)

Well, since there is massive prior art, and the concept of automated vehicles has been in the public eye for nearly a century, they can't have a patent on automated vehicles. On the other hand, they can get a patent on a specific automation system for a vehicle.

School bus racing, yeah! (3, Funny)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602077)

cars that can autonomously pick up kids from school and be switched into 'sport mode,' where 'the vehicle may navigate through turns at the maximum speed that is safe.'

This is definitely going to be an improvement over those interminably long, boring bus rides I've known as a kid. Think of the children - support hyperspeed school buses!

Re:School bus racing, yeah! (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602157)

support hyperspeed school buses!

I think we've seen [imdb.com] how this ends.

Re:School bus racing, yeah! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602243)

My bus driver in High School was the worst/scariest driver I have ever seen. She ("Mrs. Scott") Routinely ran red lights, tailgated, doubled the speed limits and is seemed like half or the turns she tried to get the bus on to two wheels.
One day after school she didn;t show up, It turns out that she had totalled the bus. It didn't seem to cost her the job though. I am so surprisd that we didn't get tagged the four years she drove us.

Re:School bus racing, yeah! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602295)

They may have these patents. Google has been interested in DARPA Challenge projects. The folks at Carnagie Mellon work with Google on some robotics projects, along with Standford, MIT, and other hubs for intelliegnce. But really? Its a bit future oriented. The autonomous world has much to revlove. The aviation world has de-evloved from autonomous to something called human-centered systems. They realized that no one was going to board a plane without a pilot. This is the Associate Systems concept for complex systems that work with humans, designed not to be autonomous but... design to be authority bounded by its operator. We can't expect rule and regs to be rewritten over even a 10 year period to include insurance for a driverless car. Our society will adopt intelligent systems which are not remotely controlled by humans, but are in the control of... a human master. This works within our society framework. Cars will not drive by themselves but YOU will be in the car and still repsonsible for commanding and conrolling the systems of the car. You can send texts and be lazy ....but if you tell the car to do something ....you're still liable. The technology I'm explaining is real and is here. A large venture group has purchased the rights to the most mature cognitive engine technology ever made. It's been researched for 20 years by DARPA and the other DoD groups. Your car will drive by itself but you will still be in the car and in control. No buses dropping off kids autonomously, thats the sci-fi talking. "Earl grey, no cream, no suguar"

Precedent (4, Insightful)

tool462 (677306) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602097)

It's quite the achievement [slashdot.org] turning an April Fool's joke into an actual product.

Re:Precedent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602261)

It's quite the achievement [slashdot.org] turning an April Fool's joke into an actual product.

So there is reason to hope that I will get my Slashdot pony after all?

Re:Precedent (2)

a_hanso (1891616) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603877)

I think I misunderstood the title. I was expecting this:

System and Method for Making Untrue and Fantastical Claims Targeted at a Selected Individual on a Specific Calendar Date, Observing Said Individual's Reaction as a Group, Later Revealing the Claim to be Untrue and Further Observing the Individual's Embarrassment, Thereby Experiencing Enjoyment.

Most tech patents are both legit AND a joke, so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602111)

there.

Yes but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602141)

Where is my Minority Report?

I know the pre-cogs have it!!

Wait... there is no minority report, but it still something crazy*

* Half assed spoiler..

Classic Bureaucracy Quote (Paraphrased) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602151)

We at the United States Patent Office do not have a sense of humor that we are aware of.

busses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602173)

Please don't spell it "busses". The only reason it's an "acceptable" spelling now is because so many schools spelled it wrong on their signs. (How's that for irony?)

Re:busses (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602233)

Please don't spell it "busses". The only reason it's an "acceptable" spelling now is because so many schools spelled it wrong on their signs. (How's that for irony?)

Why, is it spelled with three 's's'? (how the hell do you pluralize the letter 's'?)

Re:busses (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602341)

Why, is it spelled with three 's's'?

Only if we're talking about a pathway for electric current to flow through [busses]. If we're discussing multi-passenger mass transit vehicles, there would only be two [buses]

how the hell do you pluralize the letter 's'?

http://theenglishspace.com/spelling/plurals-ending-s.html [theenglishspace.com]

Re:busses (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602349)

Well it technically is buses. "busses" is even highlighted as wrong by Chrome.

Re:busses (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602375)

If they're applying for a patent, it means that they must have some sufficiently viable method of producing the tech.

No geniuses found in parent post....

Re:busses (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602399)

And of course when I make a snarky remark I also make a copy-paste fail. Yes, I should have used the preview button...

Re:busses (1)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602859)

You add an "es" to the end of it. Ex: "buses".

Nowhere near first public acknolowgement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602181)

The nuts over at 24 Hours of Lemons [24hoursoflemons.com] added a new class for driverless cars theis year, with special prizes and everything. So far there have been no entries :)

Come the fuck on, Slashdot. (4, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602183)

This [slashdot.org] is [slashdot.org] hardly [slashdot.org] a [slashdot.org] new [slashdot.org] story. [slashdot.org]

Re:Come the fuck on, Slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602267)

#4486. Welcome to Slashdot! Where editors are completely mindless morons.

No joke (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602313)

Google has been experimenting in self driving vehicles for years now, that part was not a April Fools joke.
They might have joked about partnering with Nascar, but it actually sounds reasonable. And they very much are researching and building prototypes of driver-less vehicles.

Google smart (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602315)

Patents aren't really intended for patenting ideas, so Google is smart for trying to sneak this one through during a time (i.e. "this century") when the patent office seems to approve anything if you pay for it. Smart. Evil, but smart. Someday the patent office will be corrected, and then they'll already have patented what other people had been working on for decades.

Cop cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602381)

I hope the cop cars fill up with foam during a crash and spit out tickets when you swear. Wonder if they'll patent that too? ;')

Re:Cop cars (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602951)

Only if you take me to dinner at Taco Bell on the way to the cryoprison.

Prior Art (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602391)

Looks like Tesla (and the Nazi's) beat ya to it, [google.com] Goog.

quick (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602401)

somebody patent the use of autonomous technology to allow a driver to partake in an interactive advertisement, or otherwise immersed in an advertisement experience that under standard non-autonymous conditions would be unsafe.

Ummmmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602461)

That wasn't an April Fools Joke. They have a self-driving car that has gone 200,000 miles in california. Their April Fools Joke was that google maps added nintendo mode.

I don't get this post (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602481)

Ummmm, we've known that google was working on autonomous cars LONG before this April fools day. The entire point of the joke was that they 1. Are working on this technology. 2. Joke being about Nascar having a driverless google car. I don't see the point of this post. If the joke was that they were going to be putting Google Glasses on penguins in the north pole, would this post been about how their Aprili fools joke is leading to Augmented reality glasses?

Sounds like Feynman... (1)

Bazzargh (39195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602517)

In 'Surely you're joking' he describes the last days of the Manhattan project, where they made up patent ideas for nuclear everything (cars, planes, etc). They considered it a joke at the time. There's a copy of that bit of the story online here [myspace.com] .

However, if you did come up with some fundamental technology, and had the cash to file all the patents, it seems like a plan - though not for the inventor. Feynman's cut was just $1.

Re:Sounds like Feynman... (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602819)

If I'm not mistaken his idea was for a nuclear propelled space vehicle, not so absurd after all.

love it (1)

Stubot (2439922) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602539)

"give law enforcement vehicles 'a limited amount of control over nearby vehicles." to be used only on suspects and criminals of course i.e., having a different opinion than that of the state.

Limited Amount of Control -- For whom again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602551)

The hackers will have broken the "limited amount of control" interface before law enforcement ever gets to use it.

Even better, the criminals will have modified their vehicles to be immune to such control.

Even better still? The sophisticated criminals will be able to exercise the "limited amount of control" over law enforcement vehicles.

So while Mob Boss zooms away at 120 mph, the police will be stuck at 45 mph. How's that high speed chase looking now?

So much for "Don't be evil" (0, Troll)

jmcvetta (153563) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602569)

Google is the new Microsoft.

Re:So much for "Don't be evil" (1, Funny)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603069)

And, Apple is the new venereal disease. (watch how I get marked as a troll and this poster get's modded up).

Re:So much for "Don't be evil" (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603167)

at least they're not the 'old' Microsoft. The 'new' one is much better. :P

Re:So much for "Don't be evil" (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603175)

yes, building automatic cars is just like MS.

Idiot.

Re:So much for "Don't be evil" (1)

jmcvetta (153563) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603245)

Filing overbroad patents is just like Microsoft.

Tardmunch.

Re:So much for "Don't be evil" (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603785)

But are the patents actually overbroad, or is the three line summary overview of the patent that the media latches onto in order to make a story the only thing that's overbroad? Nobody can patent the concept of an autonomous car, only specific implementations of it.

Why is this news? (3, Insightful)

Tanman (90298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602599)

Did people suddenly forget all of the news regarding Google self-driving car technology? Did people honestly think a company would be publicly spending millions of dollars doing something like this and not patent it?

https://www.google.com/search?q=google+self+driving+car&tbm=nws

Here is a bunch more "news" about google's self-driving cars.

Re:Why is this news? (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603081)

Yeah, but, it's Google and their like evil and stuff. Plus, you try to come up with interesting titles for useless stories!

April Fools? slashdot. (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602657)

Does that mean /. will trade-mark the "OMG ita PONIEEZ"

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602745)

I call prior art... Watch the jetsons.

Automatic lawnmowers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39602769)

Don't automatic lawnmowers already exist? Hasn't someone been making them for a few years now?

Automatic Farm Equipment (3, Informative)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39602791)

This appears to be a leaked video of Google's Autonomous Farm Equipment [youtu.be]

Previous April Fools Jokes (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603023)

You can't patent anything which debuts on April 1. Since 1921, the US Patent and Trade Office has rejected any patent filed on the first of April.

What are we calling a joke here? (3, Insightful)

Torodung (31985) | more than 2 years ago | (#39603195)

Because right now, the real April Fool's day joke is the entire U.S. Patent Office, and they seem to think April first lasts all year.

It's sad that I thought of that as gallows humor at first, but quickly came to the conclusion that it's roughly congruent with my actual opinion about all these legal entities girding their loins for patent wars. The system was meant to foster invention by protecting the private rewards of individual ingenuity, and the will to bring a product to market (not necessarily by the inventor). Patents were never intended to be stockpiled in this fashion. The system is being abused, and the USPTO is legally bound to obey laws desperately in need of legislative review and reform. Maybe it's Congress that is the joke here.

Of course, Google's leadership is smart enough that it's just possible they're trying to demonstrate how broken this is, by hastening its collapse. No CEO or board can possibly like the escalating Mutual Assured Destruction environment that is brewing in corporate conglomerate patent holdings. It's extremely volatile, and an unstable way to do business.

pie in the sky (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39604007)

expect a G patent on butt cracks.
that's about what it's all worth.

The problem is that no one can
afford to sue these butt cracks.

evil again.

jr

Thank you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39604149)

...for using Johnny Cab! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjRXyWFLkEY&feature=player_embedded

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