‘Virtual eyes’ to test how autonomous vehicles will interact with humans

‘Virtual eyes’ to test how autonomous vehicles will interact with humans
© Land Rover MENA

Car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover aims to test how autonomous vehicles will interact with humans by installing ‘virtual eyes’ on self-driving pods.

The virtual eyes are large screens which simulate human eyes, and allow the self-driving pods to interact with other road users, including pedestrians, to signal intent or register that the vehicle has detected them by making eye contact. They have been installed on the autonomous pods as part of an ongoing experiment to establish how autonomous vehicles will interact with humans in the safest possible way as they grow in popularity.

The eyes were devised and developed by a team of engineers at Jaguar Land Rover’s Future Mobility division, and are now being tested to determine how effective they are at generating trust in pedestrians, as part of the UK’s government’s UK Autodrive project.

How are the autonomous-driving pods being tested?

Jaguar Land Rover has constructed a street scene in the city of Coventry, UK, where the pods are being operated autonomously. The company has enlisted a team of cognitive psychologists to evaluate how vehicle behaviour – and the new, virtual eyes ¬– affects human confidence in the safety of autonomous vehicles.

The pods will monitor for pedestrians waiting to cross the road, and the virtual eyes then ‘look’ directly at the pedestrian to signal that it has identified them and intends to avoid them. The psychologists will compare the levels of trust in pedestrians before and afterwards.

What has Jaguar Land Rover said about their aims with the project?

According to Pete Bennett, Future Mobility Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, the project seeks to simulate real-world conditions of communication between drivers and pedestrians, incorporating the new technology.

He said: “It’s second-nature to glance at the driver of the approaching vehicle before stepping into the road. 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.”

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