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Google Self-Driving Cars Learn Basic Driving Skill: Honking The Horn

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The Google folks behind the self-driving car project are now teaching their autonomous vehicles how to honk.

Thanks to the lesson, the AI powering the fleet not only knows how to sound the horn but also when it's appropriate to do so, warning human drivers of hazards on the road or alerting them of potentially dangerous behavior. For instance, when the driverless Google car detects someone swerving into its lane, it will give the ol' hooter a good press.

According to the Mountain View company's self-driving monthly report for May 2016 (PDF), the engineers subjected the vehicle to a series of different situations, including but not limited to backing out of a blind driveway.

Initially, the car only played the horn inside it during the testing phase, and the people working on it kept tabs on the times it made a sound under a variety of circumstances. After that, they analyzed whether the instances of the honks were valid or not, and based on the data they collected and analyzed, they taught the autonomous vehicle accordingly — or rather, fine-tune the software it's fitted with.

"Our goal is to teach our cars to honk like a patient, seasoned driver. As we become more experienced honkers, we hope our cars will also be able to predict how other drivers respond to a beep in different situations," Google says.

What's more, the engineers also equipped the self-driving car with components that'll allow them to more or less "purr" or "rev" like other vehicles with combustion engines to alert cyclists and pedestrians of its presence. To go deeper with the details, the sound it makes now increases or decreases in pitch whenever it accelerates or decelerates, respectively, to avoid accidents on the road effectively.

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