Back in August 2018, Jaguar developed a self-driving vehicle that featured ‘virtual eyes’, a technology that was supposed to make pedestrians feel safer around autonomous vehicles, since the Jaguar-made pod would have made, well, eye contact.
The technology put actual, mechanical eyes on the vehicle, which looked in the direction of the pedestrian that was about to use a crossing. The idea behind it was that the pedestrians would see that the pod identified someone wanted to cross the street, has acknowledged them and that it intends to stop to allow them to pass.
“It’s second nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road.” Jaguar Land Rover mobility research manager Pete Bennet stated “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.”
It seems that, in the mean time, Jaguar Land Rover changed its mind about the googly eyes, or at least put the idea on hold: the latest tests found the autonomous pods projecting bars of light onto the road in front of them.
The bars show the path the pod is planning to take and whether it intends to accelerate or decelerate by simply changing the space between these bars. Just as well, if they fan out to the left or right, it would indicate the direction the pod plans to take.
The company hopes that, by employing the use of the light bars, the pedestrians would trust the autonomous vehicles more and don’t regard their approach on the street with suspicion.
“The trials are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust,” Pete Bennet went on to say “Just like any new technology, humans have to learn to trust it, and when it comes to autonomous vehicles, pedestrians must have confidence they can cross the road safely. This pioneering research is forming the basis of ongoing development into how self-driving cars will interact with people in the future.”
The technology was developed by Aurrigo for the UK Autodrive project and the pods are currently being tested on fabricated streets. At the moment, there’s no word when or where the company plans to fully implement the project in real traffic.