Plenty of time, money and brainpower is currently being poured into the research and development of driverless vehicles, but British manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is now looking seriously at how much pedestrians actually trust self-driving vehicles by studying the behavior of people around autonomous cars.
For its research JLR is using driverless pods that have a pair of large 'eyes' to signal to pedestrians that it's safe to cross in front of them. The 'eyes' are not sensors in any way; they really are only there as a friendly way of indicating to pedestrians to see if they make people confident enough to step out in front of the pod.
It's all because JLR studies have shown that as many as 63 percent of us worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in future when we have to rely on driverless vehicle sensors detecting the presence of pedestrians and stopping vehicles to avoid having an accident.
The behavior of people at the side of the road after their eyes meet with those of the pods is being analyzed by cognitive psychologists. And it's all part of the wider government-supported UK Autodrive Project a number of mainstream automakers are involved with.
JLR's Future Mobility Research Manager, Pete Bennett, says of the trials: "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 recognized is enough to improve confidence."
This certainly isn't the first test of its type as other studies have already looked at using text panels on the front of the driverless vehicles or 'facial expressions' to inform other road users and pedestrians of what the driverless vehicle is doing or is about to do.