How Self-Driving Cars Might Handle Tailgaters

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Google’s self-driving cars have covered over a million miles of roadway, and recently, one of them crashed into a slow-moving bus. Details about the accident can be found in Google’s bus crash is changing the conversation around self-driving cars. Oddly timed, but appropriate, Google seems to have been working on the issue that caused that problem, as we are told in this article: A Month After Google’s Car Hit a Bus, Google Got a Patent for Robot Cars to Detect Buses.

Because of the timing of that patent, I’m not surprised by another one being granted today involving self-driving cars on how they might respond to tailgaters. That patent is:

Detecting and responding to tailgaters
Inventors: Dmitri A. Dolgov, Philip Nemec, Anne Kristiina Aula
Assigned to: Google
US Patent: 9,290,181
Granted March 22, 2016
Filed: May 4, 2015


An autonomous vehicle detects a tailgating vehicle and uses various response mechanisms. A vehicle is identified as a tailgater based on whether its characteristics meet a variable threshold. When the autonomous vehicle is traveling at slower speeds, the threshold is defined as distance. When the autonomous vehicle is traveling at faster speeds, the threshold is defined in time. The autonomous vehicle responds to the tailgater by modifying its driving behavior. In one example, the autonomous vehicle adjusts a headway buffer (defined in time) from another vehicle in front of the autonomous vehicle. In this regard, if the tailgater is T seconds too close to the autonomous vehicle, the autonomous vehicle increases the headway buffer to the vehicle in front of it by some amount relative to T.

tailgating cars

The patent tells us about the many different types of sensors installed in self-driving cars and how they might respond to tailgating. In addition, it’s interesting seeing information about how Google is planning upon addressing potential problems that might spring up with autonomous vehicles.

The carefulness of such planning might make their self-driving cars program a success.

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13 thoughts on “How Self-Driving Cars Might Handle Tailgaters”

  1. I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really found you by mistake, while I was researching on Google for something else, regardless. I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a tremendous blog post and all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all on time, but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more.

  2. google should introduce some gadgetry like the batmobile has, when someone then tailgates the car should automatically release spikes to blow the cars tires behind ;)

    but in seriousness this sounds pretty dangerous as other drivers can influence your car to increase in speed. very difficult problem for google to solve.

  3. Hi Ricky,

    I am concerned about how safe driverless cars might be. But Google supposedly has over a million miles of testing behind autonomous vehicles; testing is good; it can help in avoiding problems in the future.

  4. Google is most frequently leading IT company in world. but, i’m still in confusion does driverless driving will work or not.

  5. Hi Anubhav,

    With every patent that details how one of these self-driving cars might address potential problems, I gain a little more confidence in the potential success of these cars. They are undergoing a lot of testing, in real-world circumstances as well.

  6. Hi Sohan,

    Google has driven over a million miles in these autonomous vehicles. The more testing, the better. If they can plan for situations like tailgaters, that is a good sign as well. At some point robotic cars may be safer than cars driven by humans.

  7. Hi Raphael,

    It sounds like you have a plan worth following. We will see how Google goes about testing its self driving cars; I think it will be really interesting watching what steps they take.

  8. Hello Bill,
    Thanks for sharing this nice post,
    Other Automobile companies are working on self driving technology by adding auto drive mode, There will be room for improvement in start and hope soon we can see these cars on roads.

  9. This is going to be very interesting moving forward in the legal industry. I have many peers that make their entire income off car accident compensation from insurance companies. That industry might disappear.

  10. Hi Alvin,

    I think it is likely that this type of technology will start appearing upon most cars, and not just self-driving cars. I believe Google’s former head of search Amit Singhal made a commercial for a car company using similar sensors already, where he described a sensor that automatically stopped him from crashing into the car in front of him. I do think most cars are going to get a lot safer in the not too distant future, and you are probably right about a decrease in car accidents.

  11. Hi Michael,

    I’ve known a few people who reacted to someone tailgating them like that, and have driven with them. I’m very happy that I never got rear-ended due to that tactic. I agree – good that Google didn’t choose to use that approach. :)

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