The turn signal is a marvelous invention. It elegantly communicates your intent to move your 4,000-pound guided missile from one space to another, thus minimizing the chance that the driver of a similar missile will be occupying the same space. It's like magic, but I live in Los Angeles where nobody uses their signals and that's why this new Tesla patent filing is especially exciting.
Tesla wants its vehicles to signal automatically without the driver needing to go through the agony that is lifting their finger and moving it up or down by several inches. The way that Tesla envisions it working is that the car detects the driver's intent to change lanes or make a turn by using the Autopilot hardware at its disposal, it then works to sense if there are other vehicles nearby and if it detects them, it puts the signal on for the driver.
If it works, it will be brilliant but given the fact that Tesla hasthat it doesn't need driver monitoring systems for Autopilot, it seems questionable that the vehicle would be able to detect a driver's intent to turn based solely on external observation.
There are plenty of systems out now from other manufacturers that will offer drivers a warning to use their signals after repeated turns or lane changes without them, but because those ultimately rely on the driver moving their finger and physically activating the signal, they're not that helpful. People are just lazy, what can we say?
Anyway, I hope this patent actually makes it into a vehicle, since many patents don't. They're most often secured by manufacturers as a means of hampering the competition's ability to develop a technology but in this case, if it works, it could really do some good.
We've reached out to Tesla for additional information on this patent, but it has not immediately responded to requests for comment.