Auto 'Eyes' Looking to Generate Pedestrian Trust

Jaguar seeks ways to boost confidence in self-driving vehicles.

September 30, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va.Makers of the Jaguar Land Rover are testing the "virtual eyes" on its self-driving pods to measure how much trust people have in the autonomous vehicles, reports

During simulated street tests, the autonomous pods with their giant “eyes” make direct eye contact with pedestrians to signal intent. The project plays off the "second-nature" urge that pedestrians have when looking at the driver of a car before stepping into the road. As the self-driving car approaches a pedestrian who about to cross the road, the auto’s large LED eyes look straight at the human to indicate its sensors have spotted them. This should assure the human that the vehicle will respond in the expected manner by slowing down and letting the pedestrian cross.

Researchers then record the trust levels in the 500 test pedestrians before and after "eye contact" is made to discover if people have enough confidence in whether the car will stop for them.

Studies show that 63% of pedestrians and cyclists say they would feel “less safe” with autonomous vehicles on the road, according to the automakers. Jaguar Land Rover hopes that the research will determine how much "information" self-driving cars should share with pedestrians and cyclists to increase trust in the vehicles when they mix with conventional vehicles on public roads.

"Understanding how this translates in tomorrow's more automated world is important," said Pete Bennett, research manager at Jaguar Land Rover's Future Mobility project, in a prepared statement. "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.”