Car maker Jaguar Land Rover has launched robot trials in Coventry to try and convince pedestrians that driverless cars are a good thing.
The autonomous vehicles will drive around the city, watching people’s reactions to them. They’ll do everything driverless cars do, like obstacle avoidance and stopping at pedestrian crossings, but their main purpose will be to measure how people deal with them. It will read facial cues and identify how the pedestrian is feeling.
For example, humans, by nature, stop at crossings and look at the driver of the car to make sure they’ve acknowledged someone is about to cross the road. Only when they’ve made that connection will they start walking across the road if it’s safe to do so.
But there’s naturally more hesitation if it’s a driverless car in control, because humans don’t make that connection with other humans. Instead, they’re faced with a car without a human in the driver’s seat. Jaguar Land Rover wants to reassure the testers that driverless cars are just as cautious – if not more so – than human drivers, even if they are unable to make that personal connection.
“As our relationship with self-driving technology increases, we need to ensure it is designed around human behaviours and needs,” Jaguar Land Rover’s future mobility research manager Pete Bennett told the BBC. “Our aim is to develop features that all road users are comfortable with.”
The trials won’t happen on real streets though. It’ll be at a testing centre where 500 people will be expected to walk around fake scenes, stopping at they normally would if strolling around Coventry. Jaguar Land Rover’s psychologists and engineers will assess the amount of trust each subject has as they come into contact with a driverless car.