Jaguar Land Rover Tests Virtual Eyes for Driverless Shuttles

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【Summary】Before making a move on the road, the driverless shuttle makes eye contact with pedestrians as a subtle warning.

Michael Cheng    Sep 08, 2018 12:00 PM PT
Jaguar Land Rover Tests Virtual Eyes for Driverless Shuttles

The initial transition to driverless transportation requires the implementation of robust safety systems for pedestrians. To achieve this, companies developing autonomous vehicles are experimenting with different types of interactive features, from digital signboards to bell chimes.

Jaguar Land Rover, a subsidiary of Tata Motors, wants to add another safety feature to the mix. The automaker recently unveiled a project that incorporates a pair of virtual eyes on self-driving shuttles for interaction with pedestrians in urban environments. This feature could help ease fears associated with driverless technology.

How Does it Work?

The virtual eyes are secured at the front of the driverless pod, where they can be seen at all times by pedestrians. Equipped with LED lights, the eyes are large and beady. Additionally, the components are designed to following the movements of individuals, while crossing the street or waiting at the corner of congested locations. This minimal form of interaction could help reassure people about the self-driving car's ability to detect pedestrians.

"It's second nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road," said Pete Bennett, Future Mobility Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover.

"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 recognized is enough to improve confidence."

The cartoon-like components were created by engineers from Jaguar Land Rover, for trials involving pedestrian safety and autonomous vehicles. The group tested the innovative feature in a closed simulation. During the trial, engineers monitored the reaction of human participants. The researchers were on the lookout for shifts in confidence levels before and after making eye contact with the virtual eyes. Bright red lights below the virtual eyes also provided information about the vehicle's movements during the tests.

Before making a move on the road, the driverless shuttle makes eye contact with pedestrians as a subtle warning. For quick reactions, this feature could be more effective than using signboards, which requires people to read and comprehend phrases quickly. Furthermore, individuals with impaired vision would be unable to view digital messages on signboards at far distances.

Jaguar Land Rover's attempt at providing reassurance for pedestrians is notable. Though as self-driving cars become more common and widespread around urban locations, such features won't be needed.

Psychological Assurance

According to a study released by the American Automobile Association (AAA), around 63 percent of adults are scared of not being seen or detected by self-driving cars. For individuals unfamiliar with how autonomous platforms and external sensors work, the fear is understandable, which is why promotion for autonomous vehicles should also include educational programs.

Moreover, the report pointed out that millennials are more likely to adopt the technology in the future, compared to older age groups.

"Americans are starting to feel more comfortable with the idea of self-driving vehicles," explained Greg Brannon, Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Director at AAA.

"Compared to just a year ago, AAA found that 20 million more U.S. drivers would trust a self-driving vehicle to take them for a ride."

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