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Google Awarded Driverless Vehicle Patent 121

theodp writes "On Tuesday, Google was awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,078,349 for methods and devices for Transitioning a Mixed-mode Autonomous Vehicle from a Human Driven Mode to an Autonomously Driven Mode. From the fast-tracked patent application, which was filed last May and kept under wraps at Google's request: 'The autonomous vehicle may be used as a virtual tour guide of Millennium Park in Chicago. In the example embodiment, the vehicle may have an instruction to drive to the Cloud Gate (Silver Bean) sculpture at Millennium Park. When the vehicle arrives, the autonomous instruction may tell it to wait in the location for a predetermined amount of time, for example 5 minutes. The instruction may then direct the vehicle to drive to the Crown Fountain at Millennium Park and again wait for 5 minutes. Next, the instruction may tell the vehicle to drive to the Ice Rink at Millennium Park and wait for another predetermined amount of time. Finally, the vehicle instruction may tell the vehicle to return to its starting position.'"
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Google Awarded Driverless Vehicle Patent

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  • by InsightIn140Bytes ( 2522112 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:35PM (#38377656)

    and kept under wraps at Google's request

    They even tried to hide their patent request. So if anyone ever wants to make a driverless car, you shall pay Google for the patent.

  • by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @07:52PM (#38377912) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at this patent ..... It could as well be the instructions someone gives to their son/daughter to go to the grocery store and back. it is only THAT complicated and specific/technical. And yet, it is granted as an 'intellectual property' in usa now. It has gone down to basic logical algorithms.
  • by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @08:00PM (#38378020) Journal

    Nothing in the patent says "car". Just vehicle. I'm not an expert, but it looks to me like this is a patent for "what aeroplane autopilots have done for decades, but not mentioning the word aeroplane". It even says "landing strip" in claim 1! How the blazes did this get granted??

  • by Xanny ( 2500844 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @08:08PM (#38378132)

    Fast forward ten years when we are all driving driverless cars. No matter who makes them, they need to get permission from Google to make such a vehicle even if they never use any google product in its production. The fact that technology will have easily progressed far enough by that point to allow fully automated vehicles, google will still be getting a huge chunk out of any car made or sold without ever having any part its design, construction, or sale, besides being the first ones to do it.

    This is like all software patents. Trying to patent mathematics and language. And we are going to have a whole generation of wasted potential because there is no way to fix it, because the only ones that can change it love the way things are now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @08:33PM (#38378402)

    On the one hand, it's a patent, and we know how much Slashdot hates patents,

    No, we don't, because Slashdot is not a single person and is incapable of hating anything, and a difference of opinion between any number of Slashdot posters does not constitute any kind of contradiction or hypocrisy.

    You know this, and therefore your implication to the contrary makes you a liar.

    You cannot refute or even disagree with this fact, and you know it.

  • by mug funky ( 910186 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @08:47PM (#38378568)

    the driverless car is an idea, so it's not patentable.

    the implementation of that idea is what is patented.

    my guess is google have made it as broad as legally possible to maximize protection of the patent.

    i can't be bothered to read it though.

    personally, i don't think this is too bad, as driverless cars are an egg that mankind has been trying to crack for quite a while. patenting that doesn't seem too evil.

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @08:52PM (#38378624) Homepage Journal

    I think the consensus* will be that the DARPA Challenge constitutes Prior Art as many of those vehicles were converted from human to fully autonomous.

    I also think the consensus* will be that the patent will make it impossible for DARPA to continue running its challenge, as having Google demand royalties from every entrant would make it impossible for highly innovative/inventive colleges or individuals from taking part as these are not the kinds of groups that will have money to spare for paying off Google.

    *consensus here is defined as "the view of the actual geeks and nerds on this site".

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2011 @09:56PM (#38379200) Homepage
    See this is why I hate software patents. It's not because they are software, but because I haven't seen a single software patent that comes close to alluding how to actually implement the invention in the patent. If you take a patent for a mechanical device, it's usually described in such a way (using diagrams and such) how one who is skilled in the field would actually construct the mechanical device. When it's a software patent, they don't give any source code, pseudo code, or even allude to how one would actually program such a thing. So, even when the patent does expire, anybody wanting to take advantage of the invention in the patent has to come up with their own implementation from scratch. Sure you know the end goal of the program, but if there are no instructions on which algorithms one would use to create a driverless car, then the patent is useless. So Google gets a monopoly on driverless cars for the next 17 years, And after that, we all get nothing because we have no more information on how to implement said driverless car, because all the source code is locked up in copyright and trade secrets.
  • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Thursday December 15, 2011 @12:45AM (#38380180) Homepage

    More likely to protect it from immediate attacks by product handling robot vehicles as used in many factories. Vehicles that move, wait, are loaded, unloaded, depending upon product to be loaded or unloaded and then move on [].

    So google has been awarded a patent based upon substituting the word 'car' for vehicle and 'human' for product. Looks like the US should win the award for the most bullshit patents awarded.

    So yeah it's already been done, all over the bloody place by whole lot's of companies. So did google actually invent anything new hardware or did they just use other people's hardware and tack on a bit of software, define a susbset of possible product to be moved and vehicle type to be used (talk about bloody obvious).

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?