Jaguar Land Rover has previewed a new means for autonomous cars to win autonomy-sceptics’ trust. Prototype self-driving test pods can project lines of light down onto the road to indicate both a planned direction and a vague intended speed.
When the pod is about to accelerate, five lines grow further apart and stay there until you slow down. At that point the gaps shrink back towards the pod. As for direction, the lines can fan out into a curve without losing the visible functionality of the gaps.
It’s an interesting idea that should give pedestrians more reassurance that a self-driving car isn’t about to move away as they walk in front of it – or at least provide some warning if it is, much like with a petrol car’s suddenly-increased revs.
Unfortunately, it relies on people using their eyes for something other than looking at their phones, so its effectiveness might be limited in the real world. There’s also a question mark over how visible the lines would be on a bright summer’s day.
JLR quotes a study that found 41 per cent of drivers and those on foot are worried about sharing the road with computer-driven cars. Pete Bennett, Future Mobility Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said:
“The trials are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust. 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.”