Smiling Autonomous Car Acknowledges Pedestrians At Crosswalks
The vehicle concept shows a new approach to creating safer intersections
The free roaming autonomous cars we’ve been hearing about on roads of the future will need better communication skills. Currently, it is the responsibility of human drivers to be aware of and acknowledge pedestrians by not driving into them with their cars. Although the implementation of pedestrian-sensor technologies and road safety initiatives like NYC’s Vision Zero proves that we still haven’t aced pedestrian safety ourselves, putting computers in a car to fully decide what to do at an intersection removes human decision making but comes with another array of challenges.
International product development company Semcon solved the problem with the Smiling Car, an autonomous car concept that communicates visually with pedestrians that it is safe to cross the street. The prototype incorporates a digital display into a vehicles’ front grille that displays an animated smile when the car stops at intersections.
emcon, along with research group Inizio found in a survey that eight out of ten pedestrians seek eye contact with a driver at an intersection before crossing. In an autonomous car, there may or may not be a pair of eyes to look at. Karin Eklund, Global UX Manager at Semcon elaborates on the problem:
A lot of the discussions regarding self-driving cars are about the car’s technology. But how these vehicles will interact with unprotected road users is just as important. Self-driving cars need to communicate in a way that feels familiar and creates trust.
The Smiling Car is a project Semcon identifies as a first step in a longer process of developing exterior communications standards for self-driving vehicles. Furthermore, there may have to be a combination of visual and auditory signals developed to address those with eyesight or hearing impairments. However at this point, Semcon’s approach was to try and find a gesture that would be universally recognized as a starting point.