No, you’re not watching Disney Pixar’s Cars. Jaguar Land Rover really is putting eyes on cars, albeit for the purposes of research into pedestrian trust of autonomous cars.
You won’t be seeing Range Rovers with big eyes on the windscreen anytime soon, though. The “virtual eyes” are only being fitted to self-driving pod research vehicles… for now.
It may sound quite amusing but it’s a chuckle-worthy means to a rather serious end – developing the software and modifying the ‘behaviour’ of autonomous cars so they’re better prepared to deal with the unpredictable, very human-infested world of commuting.
The project is the baby of a team of cognitive psychologists, hired by Jaguar Land Rover to find out more about how vehicle behaviour affects people’s confidence in new technologies. The autonomous pods are to drive around makeshift streets in Coventry while the behaviour of pedestrians is analysed.
This is where the ‘eyes’ come in, as the pods make ‘eye contact’ with nearby pedestrians on their travels. That, in theory, should put that passer-by at ease: making eye contact with the ‘eyes’ acknowledges they’ve been recognised by the car.
Trust levels are recorded in instances with and without use of the ‘eyes’, presumably to result in pedestrians trusting in the car that’s ‘seen’ them more.
JLR is carrying out the study in response to previous studies which have suggested that nearly two in three pedestrians and cyclists say they’d feel less safe sharing the streets with self-driving cars.
“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” said Pete Bennett, Future Mobility Research Manager at Jaguar Land Rover.
“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.”