Splitting lanes, or white-lining, lane sharing, filtering, etc., is a common practice all over the world, but outside of California, it's illegal in the US. So, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, it allows a motorcyclist to ride between rows of stopped or slowed vehicles on both surface roads and freeways.
When done sensibly, at low speeds, lane splitting is a reasonably safe practice but, sometimes motorcyclists are hard to see when coming up behind you between lanes, and if you decide to change lanes, there is a risk of a collision. To help mitigate that, there is a new patent filed by engineers from Ford that uses cameras and other sensors to help a vehicle detect lane-splitting motorcyclists and intervene where appropriate.
Motorcyclists can be difficult to see even under the best circumstances, and if your car has less than ideal visibility, that problem compounds. Ford's patent would use a trio of rear-facing cameras linked to a controller that ties in with a vehicle's other advanced driver assistance (ADAS) features to trigger automatic steering or braking when a motorcycle is detected in the inter-lane region.
This technology is great for cars with drivers, but it is critical for future driverless vehicles. Currently, most self-driving car platforms in testing still have difficulty detecting motorcyclists in traffic which, means that a self-driving car initiating a sudden, autonomous lane change could have real -- even deadly -- consequences for riders. If Ford fully develops its patent, it could mean a big leap forward for autonomous four-wheeled vehicle and two-wheeled vehicle relations, particularly if lane splitting becomes more widespread.
We always like to finish these patent pieces by reminding our readers that just because a company files a patent, it doesn't mean that it will go on to develop that patent into a product or service. Frequently, manufacturers will patent something merely to prevent its competitors from developing something similar, though we hope that's not the case here.