Unprotected left-hand turns are tough for robots and humans alike. The compounding variables of crossing in front of oncoming traffic make it one of the toughest maneuvers in driving. It’s one of the toughest challenges for self-driving platforms — even more so as drivers often look for non-verbal cues from other drivers to when it’s safe to cross.
Cruise, the self-driving division within General Motors, today released a video reporting it successfully completed 1,400 such turns within a 24-hour period. The test took place on the busy and hilly streets of San Francisco. Some of the examples on the video show a vehicle cautiously entering an intersection only to wait for another vehicle to pass before making the turn. Other times, the vehicle is assertive and enters the turn without delay. Only four examples are shown, though Cruise insists they have video proof of all 1,400. None of the videos show the Cruise vehicle navigating around crossing pedestrians.
“In an unpredictable driving environment like SF, no two unprotected left-turns are alike,” Kyle Vogt, president & CTO, Cruise said in a released statement. “By safely executing 1,400 regularly, we generate enough data for our engineers to analyze and incorporate learnings into code they develop for other difficult maneuvers.”
Self-driving companies often rely on data collected from its vehicles. Successful or not, both instances will give the engineers data that can be added to existing models to make future rides more successful. In this case, having successfully completed 1,400 in a short amount of time will give Cruise’s engineers loads to work with.
Cruise is permitted to test about 180 Generation 3 vehicles on public roads in California. It didn’t state how many vehicles were needed to complete this test.