Will 'virtual eyes' help us to trust driverless cars?

Kenny Grant
August 29, 2018

According to Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), research suggests that 63 per cent of pedestrians worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in the future - a time when autonomous vehicles will roam free.

The trials form part of Jaguar Land Rover's £20million UK Autodrive project, which has seen a fleet of self-driving cars tested in and around Coventry. Their top speed is only 15 miles per hour, meaning they only travel along pedestrian zones and not actual roads.

To help self-driving pods better communicate with the world around them, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has turned to a set of (terrifying) virtual eyes. The "eyes" have been devised by a team of advanced engineers, working in JLR's Future Mobility division.

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Engineers will record levels of trust in the vehicles before and after the tests. As a pedestrian waits to cross a fake road, the pod rolls up and its "eyes" focus on the pedestrian, much in the way that a passing driver might make eye contact with a pedestrian, acknowledging that they have been seen. The vehicle will then attempt to take avoiding action, either by stopping or adjusting its line.

Pete Bennett, a human from JLR's future mobility research division, said: "We want to know if it is beneficial to provide humans with information about a vehicle's intentions or whether simply letting a pedestrian know it has been recognised is enough to improve confidence", as the pedestrians of the world are not now disposed to trust autonomous vehicles.

The technology is a set of "virtual eyes" that have been installed on a self-driving pod auto now used in trials for the Autodrive project in the United Kingdom. It's all part of a larger study meant to investigate the interactions between self-driving vehicles and pedestrians, and whether or not replicating human behavior in the vehicles will help foster that trust. "We want to know if it is beneficial to provide humans with information about a vehicle's intentions or whether simply letting a pedestrian know it has been recognized is enough to improve confidence".

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