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Jaguar Land Rover eyes up future autonomous developments

Wednesday, 7th November, 2018 4:37pm

One of the problems (of the many, many problems) facing the designers and engineers of autonomous cars is how they will, in the future, interact with us when we’re pedestrians, or cyclists.

Given that many, if indeed not all, autonomous cars will be electrically-powered, how will those on foot know that the driverless car in front of them has seen them as they, for example, prepare to step off the kerb?

Jaguar Land Rover’s solution appears to be gigantic, anthropomorphic, googly eyes. We’re honestly not sure whether this is reassuringly comical, or properly terrifying, but the idea is that the car can make ‘natural’ eye contact with you, and therefore you know it has seen you before you step out.

According to Jaguar, this sort of development is vital, as 63 per cent of pedestrians worry about how safe it will be to cross the road in the future.

The concept of a car ‘looking’ at you is not quite new — both VW and Toyota have shown concept cars with LED lights at the front that can mimic the effect of eyes, and which can even replicate the effect of a smile or a wink, but Jaguar’s idea goes much, much further.

“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,” said Pete Bennett, future mobility research manager at Jaguar Land Rover.

The trials of the googly-eyed pod are taking place in Coventry, and are part of a wider study exploring how future connected and autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.

As part of the study, more than 500 test subjects have been studied interacting with the self-driving pods, designed by Jaguar Land Rover’s partner on the project, Aurrigo.

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