Jaguar Land Rover tests self-driving cars that look alive

Jaguar Land Rover tests self-driving cars that look alive

The googly-eyed vehicle is created to "look" directly at pedestrians at road crossings so they can be confident that the machine knows they are there and won't run them over.

Jaguar Land Rover's mobility division is conducting a study to see if its large eyes, capable of fixing upon a pedestrian and letting them know when it is safe to cross, gives people enough confidence to cross in front of a vehicle without a human operator behind the wheel.

Working with cognitive psychologists, Jaguar Land Rover will test whether the eyes can communicate effectively with pedestrians and build their confidence in self-driving technology.

The latest trust trials form part of the West Midlands-based luxury vehicle maker's government-supported UK Autodrive project.

Despite the auto industry pushing on with its desire to develop self-driving cars, trust in the vehicles themselves is arguably at quite a low point after a number of public fatalities during testing.

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For the latest trial, the pods run on a fabricated street scene, while the behaviour of pedestrians is analyzed as they wait to cross the road.

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.

Self-driving cars will make "eye contact" with pedestrians to give people more confidence to cross roads. The vehicle will then attempt to take avoiding action, either by stopping or adjusting its line. "Understanding how this translates in tomorrow's more automated world is important", said Pete Bennett, future mobility research manager at JLR. To see if the eyes help, engineers record trust levels in pedestrians after crossing ahead of the pod.

Pods are running in a closed virtual environment in the UK. 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.

The test cars used as part of this experiment were developed by Aurrigo and, so far, 500 test subjects have been used as part of the study.

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