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BRAINIAC

Innovation of the Week: Pulling over a driverless car

(adobe)

What is it? A method of pulling over a self-driving car

Who created it? The California Highway Patrol

What were they thinking? At 3:30 a.m. in Redwood City, Calif., one recent morning, officers in a California Highway Patrol cruiser pulled alongside a Tesla Model S traveling 70 miles per hour — only to observe that the driver was falling asleep, his car apparently set to autopilot. Their siren and flashing lights, the Los Angeles Times reported, failed to wake him up. So the officers had to improvise. After they radioed for backup, a second cruiser arrived to block traffic from behind. The first cruiser then sped up, moved in front of the Tesla, and then slowed to a stop — on the theory that the car had been programmed to do the same.

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Did it work? Yes. “The cameras and computer algorithms of the vehicle’s self-driving system did their job,” the Times reported, “slowing to avoid ramming the officer’s car.” The driver, later identified as 45-year-old Alexander Samek, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Designated drivers still need to be human — at least for now.