Google robo-car suffers brain freeze after seeing hipster cyclist

Devs try for frantic in-car fix as cyclist stands still

A cyclist on the road in London.

A cyclist riding a fixed-gear bike claims to have brought a Google robo-car to a standstill.

The rider, one “Oxtox” took to the forums of Road Bike Review with a tale in which he spotted “a Google self-driving Lexus”.

Oxtox says “near the end of my ride today... we both stopped at an intersection with 4-way stop signs.” The rider was aboard a fixed-gear bike. Such steeds, commonly known as “fixies”, have no freewheel so when the pedals are moving, the wheels are moving. Cyclists whose shoes bond to their pedals with cleats often prefer not to detach when stationary so use a technique called a “track stand” whereby they stand on the pedals, turn the front wheel and balance without moving.

Track stands are tricky to sustain: riders often wobble, rock and move a centimetre or five as they fight to stay keep their feet off the ground.

Oxtox says the Googlemobile “apparently detected my presence … and stayed stationary for several seconds.” He then started his track stand, thinking the car would go through the intersection. “It finally began to proceed, but as it did, I rolled forward an inch while still standing. The car immediately stopped.”

“I continued to stand, it continued to stay stopped. Then as it began to move again, I had to rock the bike to maintain balance. It stopped abruptly.”

This sequence of events continued “for about two full minutes and the car never made it past the middle of the intersection,” Oxtox wrote, adding that “The two guys inside were laughing and punching stuff into a laptop, I guess trying to modify some code to 'teach' the car something about how to deal with the situation.”

Google told The Washington Post it welcomes the incident as it will help it to improve its robo-cars' perfomance.

Track stands are so-named because they're very useful during track cycling sprint races, when it can be advantageous to let an opponent past. Of late, they're more often practiced by those who ride fixed-gear bicycles, many of whom are accused of being slaves to cycling fashion. ®

Bootnote: While we're on cycling, you do know about The Reg's looming charity ride in Australia? Team members and donors welcome.


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