Jaguar Land Rover adds human eyes to self-driving cars to see if we trust them

28 Aug 2018

Jaguar Land Rover’s virtual eyes will try to connect with you on an emotional level. Image: JLR

Jaguar Land Rover has developed anthropomorphic eyes for autonomous cars in the hope of seeing how much we trust them.

Despite the auto industry pushing on with its desire to develop self-driving cars, trust in the vehicles themselves is arguably at quite a low point after a number of public fatalities during testing.

In fact, recent research has shown that as many as 63pc of pedestrians asked as part of a survey are worried about their safety when trying to cross a road with self-driving cars on it.

Now, in an effort to see how trustful humans can be of the technology, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has developed ‘virtual eyes’ for the latest cars under development.

The human-like eyes – seemingly in a permanent state of sadness – are designed to interact with other road users and make eye contact with pedestrians to let them know the car is aware of them.

JLR said that it recruited a team of cognitive psychologists and has been running tests on a fabricated street scene in the UK city of Coventry.

A self-driving car with human-like eyes watching a woman at a pedestrian crossing.

The ‘virtual eyes’ on the Aurrigo self-driving car want to see if you trust them. Image: JLR

Testing with humans

“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 JLR.

“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.”

The test cars used as part of this experiment were developed by Aurrigo and, so far, 500 test subjects have been used as part of the study.

While these tests were conducted in the UK, JLR’s recently opened office in Shannon, Co Clare, is developing much of the software the company wants to put into its electric and self-driving cars.

Speaking at Inspirefest 2018, the general manager for vehicle engineering at the Shannon site, John Cormican, said JLR intends to make Ireland the “centre of the universe” for self-driving cars.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic