AN EXPERIMENT to enable driverless vehicles to make ‘eye contact’ with road users will test the public’s trust in the technology.
Coventry firm Aurrigo and luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have joined forces to create the friendly-faced ‘eye pods’.
The companies claim the virtual eyes will help innovators test how future self-driving cars should interact with pedestrians to boost confidence.
The pods seek out the pedestrian – appearing to ‘look’ directly at them with their eyes – signalling to road users it has identified them.
It will then indicate to the road user and avoid them.
The new technology seeks to address uncertainty about the safety of the vehicles before they are released on to roads.
There have been a number of accidents caused by self-driving cars in the last year.
Studies have shown the majority of road users remain sceptical about the safety of the technology for pedestrians.
JLR says it enlisted the help of a team of cognitive psychologists to perform the experiments.
The intelligent pods run autonomously on a fabricated street scene at Aurrigo’s Urban Driving Laboratory in Coventry.
The behaviour of pedestrians is analysed as they wait to cross the road at the testing facility.
Engineers record trust levels in the person before and after the pod makes ‘eye contact’ to find out whether it generates sufficient confidence that it would stop for them.
Chief executive of Aurrigo David Keene said: “Safety is at the heart of our autonomous technology and our close working relationship with JLR meant we could quickly accommodate ‘virtual eyes’ on to a number of our pods to facilitate this important study.
“The valuable information will be used as part of the UK Autodrive programme and will also shape future developments in how we bring self-driving vehicles on to the pavements, streets and roads of the UK and overseas.”
Pete Bennett, Future Mobility research manager at JLR, said: “It’s second-nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road. Understanding how this translates in tomorrow’s more automated world is important.
“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.”
The trials are part of a wider study exploring how future connected and autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.
As part of the study, more than 500 test subjects have been studied interacting with the self-driving Aurrigo pods.