JLR pavement signals throw new light on AV trust levels

Projecting light beams onto road surfaces may boost pedestrian confidence in AV environments.
A necessity for all AVs is to ensure that other road users, including pedestrians, have trust in their actions. To help achieve this confidence, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has developed an intelligent technology light beam system that projects a AV’s intended track onto the road ahead of it.
The system now being trialed on JLR’s autonomous Aurrigo pod vehicles, uses colored bars of light beamed onto the road surface. The distance between the bars indicates the progress of a maneuver. They close up if a vehicle is stationary and move apart steadily as it accelerates away, with the reverse happening as it comes to a stop.
Making turns at junctions, the beams fan out in a curving sequence, explained Pete Bennett, the company’s Future Mobility Research Manager: “The trials (currently in a fabricated city street environment) are about understanding how much information a self-driving vehicle should share with a pedestrian to gain their trust.”
Light projection onto road surfaces has been the subject of various R&D programs but the technique has taken on new significance with the positive emergence of high volume AVs. JLR’s teams include cognitive psychologists who can advise on the reactions and understanding of pedestrians seeing and trusting such indicators.
To gauge this, pedestrian “trust levels” are being used to assess the efficacy of the technology. JLR stated that studies found that 41% of both drivers and pedestrians are concerned about sharing a road environment with AVs. Comparative observations involve pedestrian reaction to the AV pods making stops, starts and turns, both with and without the beam cues.
“Just like any new technology, humans have to learn to trust it,” Bennett said. “When it comes to AVs, pedestrians must have confidence they can cross a road safely.” To ensure safety of partially sighted/blind pedestrians (some using guide dogs), a supplementary audible warning may need to be considered, as would the efficacy of the beams in very high ambient light (sunny) conditions, and on various road surfaces including concrete.
Part of the UK Autodrive project, the work is described as forming the basis of ongoing development in AV interaction with other road users. The Aurrigo test pods are supplied by the AV division of the RDM Group, a specialist in “first and last mile” transport solutions, designing and developing them and their control systems.
In Germany, Ford is also using lighting to help pedestrian-to-AV communication research via a roof-mounted light bar flashing white, purple and turquoise to indicate what the vehicle is doing and what it will do next, including giving way. Turquoise was deemed particularly helpful in terms of identity.
Working with Chemnitz University of Technology, pedestrian interaction testing included having a vehicle’s driver of a regular car “hidden” in what Ford describes as a “Human Car Seat” by using a false headrest to ensure no eye contact with pedestrians and to make the test vehicle look like an AV. Continue reading »