JLR testing trust in autonomous cars with googly eyed pods

Peeping pods may not look bothered by humans, but may hold the key to gaining human trust in AVs

Jaguar Land Rover has enlisted the help of some unconventional looking new employees – googly eyed autonomous pods, which are being used to gauge how pedestrians behave around autonomous vehicles.

The funny looking eyes are actually a vital component of the pods, as determining how much information autonomous cars should share with human pedestrians is the key goal of the study.

• All you need to know about autonomous cars

Designed and made by Aurrigo – one of the companies backing autonomous vehicle project UK Autodrive – the pods have been deployed in a simulation of a typical Coventry street. The ‘virtual eyes’ have been developed by JLR’s brightest and best.

The eyes seek out pedestrians looking to cross the street. If the pod spots a pedestrian who could potentially get in harm’s way, the pod will look directly at them, signalling that it has recognised them and will take precautions to avoid an accident.

The behaviour of the pod isn’t what JLR is looking into though – instead, how humans feel locking eyes with one is what the firm’s researchers are interested in.

Engineers record trust levels in humans taking part in the test before and after the pod has locked eyes with them, to find out if the googly eyes generate additional trust that the pod will stop for them.

More than 500 test subjects have already met the pods, but JLR has yet to publish any results from the trials. JLR says that up to 63 per cent of pedestrians and cyclists say they’d feel less safe sharing space with a self-driving vehicle.

Now read about the study that suggests autonomous cars without steering wheels won’t appear before 2045…

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