Google's taking us for a ride, having patented a method for transferring a car into robot-control mode, the BBC reports.
The search giant has been awarded the nugget of intellectual property, which describes 'Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode'. In non-patent speak, that means switching a car from driver control to a state where the car itself takes charge of the wheel.
The patent itself specifies that transitioning from stupid-human to supersmart-robot mode may include stopping the car on a predefined 'landing strip' or detecting a 'reference indicator', which could be a marking on the road itself that tells the car where it is. That marking could be a QR code -- the patent says the vehicle could also use the marking to acquire instructions via a URL.
Google has been quietly beavering away on driverless cars for a while now -- last October we reported that the Big G had already been testing cars that trundle happily along without any human input.
The driverless cars have already clocked over 1,000 miles with zero human input. Google has said its goal is to prevent accidents, make cars more efficient and reduce carbon emissions.
This latest patent could suggest Google is now working on the practical bits of tech that would be required to make the cars something the public could actually use, and, dare we say it, buy.