Autonomous vehicle technology is being developed at sites across the UK, and the government has said it wants driverless cars to be in use on the roads by 2021.
But how can we ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists?
At Jaguar Land Rover, engineers are working with psychologists to better understand how vehicle behaviour affects human confidence in the technology.
The problem lies with lack of information, understanding and the interface between machines and humans, the company explained.
As virtual reality expert Professor Bob Stone from the company Virtual Presence told the BBC: “We shouldn’t have to adapt to the technology, the technology should be designed with us in mind”.
The solution currently being tested on a fabricated street scene in Coventry involves intelligent pods fitted with ‘virtual eyes’ that give pedestrians a sense of security that the car has recognised them.
The pods seek out the pedestrian — appearing to ‘look’ directly at them — signalling to road users that it has identified them, and intends to take avoiding action.
Pete Bennett, future mobility research manager at Jaguar Land Rover, 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.”
The trials are part of a wider study exploring how future connected and autonomous vehicles can replicate human behaviour and reactions when driving.